An Education


Directed by: Lone Scherfig
Written by:Nick Hornby
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Cara Seymour, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson
Released: October 22, 2009
Grade: A

Set in London 1962, An Education is a beautiful coming-of-age story.  When we first meet Jenny (Mulligan), she is sweet, innocent young girl who lives with her parents in a middle-class neighbourhood.  Jenny in her final year at school and she’s studying hard so as to be accepted into Oxford.  It’s her dream to attend this prestigious university and study English.  Well, it’s actually her father’s (Molina) dream but Jenny does whatever she can to keep him happy.

When we see Jenny at the end of the film, she is a changed individual.  Within the space of a few months, she has been given “an education” on life.  Her eyes, her ears and her heart have all been opened to the exciting world which lies outside her front door.  Ah, but mistakes will be made and lessons will be learned.  In one of the film’s final scenes, she sums up her misadventures by saying that “I feel old, but not very wise.”

So what happened in between?  His name is David (Sarsgaard).  They first met on a rainy afternoon while Jenny was walking home from school.  Sharing a common interest for classical music, Jenny was transfixed by David’s charm and knowledge.  He was a well travelled man – far more interesting than the naïve, immature boys she knew from her neighbourhood.  She didn’t care that he was nearly twice her age.

Her parents did though… at first.  They didn’t want their innocent daughter being led astray by this wealthy playboy.  David wins them over though with his smooth sensibility.  He starts taking Jenny to concerts, to dinners, to auctions, to Paris!  She’s the envy of all her friends at school.  Things couldn’t be better and her studies take a back seat to this new, opulent existence.  Life isn’t that easy though and Jenny is about to learn some valuable lessons which cannot be taught in any school textbook.  They have to be experienced.

I’ve had the chance to see this film twice and I’ve also had the chance to meet the star of the film, Carey Mulligan.  At just 24 years of age, Mulligan is a gifted actress and a star to watch.  Her breakout performance here is tipped to earn her an Oscar nomination early next year.  It’s also opened a bunch of doors in Hollywood.  She’ll soon be seen in Wall Street 2 (opposite Shia LaBeouf) and in Brothers (with Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal).

Mulligan goes through every human emotion possible in An Education.  Just looking at her face, you’ll see a noticeable transformation as the film progresses.  She seems to have a touching one-on-one scene with almost every member of the cast.  My pick of the supporting players was Olivia Williams (Rushmore) who plays one of Jenny’s teachers.

The well-written screenplay has been penned by Nick Hornby, the author of such classics as High Fidelity and About A Boy.  However, this is the first time he has adapted another’s work for the big screen.  The tale is based on memoirs written by Lynn Barber, a British journalist who currently works for The Sunday Times.  I liked some of the film’s off-beat moments – they give it a little “edge”.  One involves a banana. 

Swedish director Lone Scherfig (Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself) has brought the whole package together with a soft touch – from the film score to the cinematography.  An Education won the Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and it’s a big-hearted crowd pleaser which you absolutely must see.