Cast: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred
Molina, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Emma
Thompson, Cara Seymour, Matthew Beard, Sally Hawkins
RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins
Released By: GV
Official Website: http://www.aneducationfilm.com/
Opening Day: 26 November 2009
1961 and attractive, bright 16-year-old schoolgirl, Jenny
(Carey Mulligan) is poised on the brink of womanhood, dreaming
of a rarefied, Gauloise-scented existence as she sings along
to Juliette Greco in her Twickenham bedroom. Stifled by the
tedium of adolescent routine, Jenny can't wait for adult life
to begin. Meanwhile, she's a diligent student, excelling in
every subject except the Latin that her father is convinced
will land her the place she dreams of at Oxford University.
One rainy day, her suburban life is upended by the arrival
of an unsuitable suitor, 30-ish David (Peter Sarsgaard). Urbane
and witty, David instantly unseats Jenny's stammering schoolboy
admirer, Graham (Matthew Beard). To her frank amazement, he
even manages to charm her conservative parents Jack (Alfred
Molina) and Marjorie (Cara Seymour), and effortlessly overcomes
any instinctive objections to their daughter's older, Jewish
Very quickly, David introduces Jenny to a glittering new world
of classical concerts and late-night suppers with his attractive
friend and business partner, Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Danny's
girlfriend, the beautiful but vacuous Helen (Rosamund Pike).
David replaces Jenny's traditional education with his own
version, picking her up from school in his Bristol roadster
and whisking her off to art auctions and smoky clubs.
Under the pretext of an introduction to C.S. Lewis, David
arranges to take Jenny on a weekend jaunt to Oxford with Danny
and Helen. Later, using an ingenious mixture of flattery and
fibbery, he persuades her parents to allow him to take their
only daughter to Paris for her 17th birthday. David suggests
that his "Aunt Helen" will once again act as a chaperone.
Jack and Marjorie do not know that Jenny has chosen the date
and place to lose her virginity.
Paris is all that Jenny imagined it would be, sex with David
somewhat less so. On her return to Twickenham, Jenny's school
friends are thrilled with her newfound sophistication but
her headmistress (Emma Thompson) is scandalised and her English
teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams) is deeply disappointed
that her prize pupil seems determined to throw away her evident
gifts and certain chance of higher education.
Just as the family's long-held dream of getting their brilliant
daughter into Oxford seems within reach, Jenny is tempted
by another kind of life. Will David be the making of Jenny
or her undoing?
"Life is a succession of lessons, which must be lived
to be understood."- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here’s a lesson that young, nubile girls should bear
in mind- if you want to be swept off your feet, be prepared
to fall on your knees. That is the lesson facing bright 16-year-old
Jenny, a smart and pretty young lady on the cusp of adulthood.
One rainy day, Jenny (Carey Mulligan) accepts the offer of
a lift from charming, sophisticated thirtyish man David (Peter
Sarsgaard) who would go on to introduce her to the world of
concerts, art auctions, posh restaurants and everything else
she doesn’t yet know about the good life.
Who could blame Jenny for falling for him? Before this, she
was a student in a stuffy British school bound for Oxford,
brought up in a prim and proper middle-class family with an
overbearing father (Alfred Molina) and a sympathetic mother
(Cara Seymour). Into this stifling environment springs David,
much like a breath of fresh air, embracing the things she
loves and bringing her to the place she has only visited in
her wildest dreams- Paris! Ah yes indeed, who wouldn’t
fall for someone like David?
But it’s obvious that there’s a catch to all that-
beneath the cool, debonair exterior, David is really no more
than a cad, one who relishes the company of a girl genuinely
taken and smitten by him. Jenny, of course, doesn’t
find out until it is too late, living through the experience
of her life the painful lesson she will eventually learn.
Too soon, too eager, one sighs- but isn’t it so for
all of us when we were adolescents too, just waiting all so
keenly, and sometimes a little too impatiently, to burst out
into life and taste its infinite possibilities?
At once then, director Lone Scherfig’s "An Education"
is both a cautionary tale and a coming-of-age story, as relevant
to Jenny as it is to any one of us. Perhaps inevitably, one
must live through life to realise its traps and snares, to
fully understand that it isn’t always as rosy as it
first appears to be. In teaching this lesson, Scherfig adopts
a deliberate pacing, slowly unfolding a convincing story of
how an intelligent, yet inquisitive, girl falls prey to the
allure of a much older man.
He is aided here brilliantly by novelist Nick Hornby’s
screenplay (High Fidelity), packed with witty lines and keen
observations that have made his books so popular among fans.
Hornby’s work is even more outstanding in light that
his source material was just an eight-page essay by Lynn Barber
published in Granta magazine in the ‘60s- Barber herself
a British journalist who at the age of 16, had a well-publicized
two-year affair with a man in his late 30s.
What has also made this lesson truly lively is its talented
cast, in particular the luminous Carey Mulligan. Mulligan
strikes a perfect balance of vulnerability, confidence, intelligence
and fragility, deftly handling her character’s transformation
from a naive teenager to a worldly young adult. There’s
a fine line between assurance and arrogance, and Mulligan
never lets her character slip into the latter, building up
a great deal of empathy for Jenny even as you lament at her
Just as outstanding in their supporting roles is Alfred Molina
and Olivia Williams- the former proving that outside of the
villainous Dr Octopus, he actually does have perfect comic
timing as Jenny’s father; and the latter imbuing the
role of Jenny’s concerned teacher with great warmth
and sincerity. Not forgetting of course the understated Peter
Sarsgaard, who eschews the typical stereotype of handsome,
sweet-talking man for a well-nuanced, quietly poised and ultimately
dashing portrayal of David.
But the true star of the show is none other than the 24-year-old
actress Carey Mulligan, her discovery in this breakout film
an education in itself. The lesson that her film imparts is
oft-told, but one that deserves to be said and heard again-
life needs to be lived with caution, especially if it appears
too good to be true. Maybe that’s one lesson we all
need to live through before we truly understand its wisdom.
engaging film from start to end- and "An Education"
in itself for its breakout star Carey Mulligan)
Review by Gabriel Chong