Connect with us

Movie Reviews

An Education



Released: 16th October 2009

Director: Lone Sherfig

Stars: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina


Reviewer: Jessica Leech

Oscar-nominated An Education is a nostalgic look at whirlwind romance in 1960’s England, and a timeless take on the coming-of-age of an intelligent, ambitious young woman, based on an autobiographical article by Lynn Barber.

It’s 1961 and 16 year old Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is leading a conventional life, living with her highly protective parents in a London suburb. She is encouraged to aspire to an Oxford education, and spends her time studying and preparing for university life. Her heart, however, truly lies in Paris; she sprinkles French phrases into conversation, and secretly loses herself in French music whilst alone her room.

One afternoon, as Jenny braves the great British weather on the walk home from school, a suave, handsome older man named David (Peter Sarsgaard), pulls up beside her and proposes he give her cello a ride home to protect it from the downpour. She is instantly allured by him and very soon, after also charming her parents, he is taking her to expensive dinners, classical music recitals and weekends away to Oxford and Paris. It seems as though Jenny finally gets her wish of a life in the upper class.

It soon becomes apparent to us, if not to Jenny, that David and his friends are not quite what they seem. The pit of your stomach insists that something is amiss, and despite the clues pointing to the true nature of his intent, a part of me still hoped that he was legitimate, for Jenny’s sake.

It’s not difficult to understand how a young, impressionable teenager could be wooed by an attractive man almost twice her age, despite her intelligence. To Jenny, David’s world is glamourous, exciting, and everything hers is not. Her parents willingness to allow the relationship is somewhat disconcerting, though it is clear they have her best interests at heart. Her father (Alfred Molina) seems to believe this well-spoken, respectable man can afford Jenny social and monetary advantages.

Mulligan’s performance is fantastically understated and truly carries the film. She balances a naive confidence with striking wit and the illusion of worldly knowledge, which only serves to make the film’s conclusion all the more heartbreaking. Molina’s portrayal of the hurting father, full of regret to Jenny for not having protected her better is accomplished and touching, underlined by a moment when he leaves a cup of tea and biscuits outside his heartbroken daughter’s room. Sarsgaard also gives a very good performance as the elegant, smooth-talking David.

Lone Scherfig’s skillful handling of Nick Hornby’s screenplay has allowed it to become a life-affirming, enlightening, beautiful piece of filmmaking that could have so easily been much more depressing. Even after its climax, the story is not presented with bitterness, but with the reiteration that mistakes are made and life goes on. An Education has made its point; the school years are not all about academia, but they certainly are about education.

Just For You