An Education (12A)



Drama (2009)
100mins UK

Starring: Rosamund Pike, Peter Sarsgaard, Olivia Williams, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson, Carey Mulligan, Dominic Cooper
Director: Lone Scherfig
Writer(s): Nick Hornby
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Twickenham, 1961. Sixteen-year-old schoolgirl Jenny meets handsome stranger David, who invites her to a classical music concert with friends Danny and Helen. They gradually lead her stray at late night supper clubs and with trips to the country. As a consequence, Jenny's grades slip and her teacher Miss Stubbs fears her best student is throwing it all away.

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LondonNet Film Review
An Education

A star is born...

Hattie (Amanda Fairbank-Hynes), Jenny (Carey Mulligan) & Tine (Ellie Kendrick). E1 Entertainment FilmsTwenty-four-year-old British actress Carey Mulligan positions herself as a serious Oscar contender with a mesmerising portrayal of a conflicted schoolgirl in Swinging Sixties London. Based on a memoir by journalist Lynn Barber, An Education is a rites of passage story blessed with a touching and humorous script by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About A Boy). Director Lone Scherfig beautifully evokes an era of mini-skirts, bouffant hair and childish innocence. She delicately handles the heroine's sexual awakening, mining a rich vein of humour in scenes between the girl and her parents, whose desire for their little girl to do well at university threaten to suffocate her.

Twickenham, 1961: 16-year-old schoolgirl Jenny (Mulligan) meets handsome stranger David (Peter Sarsgaard) on the street and is unsure how to respond to the attentions of the older man. When their paths cross again, Jenny nervously accepts an invitation to a classical music concert with David's business partner Danny (Dominic Cooper) and his girlfriend Helen (Rosamund Pike). They gradually lead her stray with visits to late-night supper clubs and a trip to the country. As a consequence, Jenny's grades slip and her teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams) fears her best student is throwing her future away. Still, Jenny is dazzled by her suitor - but not so much that she is willing to surrender to him, confiding: "I'm a virgin and I want to stay that way until I'm 17." As the milestone approaches, Jenny is torn between the hopes of her parents (Alfred Molina, Cara Seymour) and her burgeoning desires.

Helen (Rosamund Pike) & Danny (Dominic Cooper). E1 Entertainment FilmsAn Education is an elegant and affectionate portrait of post-war conservatism as seen through the eyes of a precocious, yet painfully naive teenager teetering on the cusp of womanhood. Mulligan's tour-de-force central performance galvanises the film, striking the right balance between determination and vulnerability. Scenes with Sarsgaard spark a simmering sexual chemistry that, once consummated, delivers a big laugh when Jenny inadvertently derides David's sexual prowess by musing, "All that poetry and all those songs about something that lasts no time at all!" American Sarsgaard's shaky English accent is an unnecessary distraction. He concentrates so hard on elongated vowels that at times, he almost forgets to deliver a performance - unlike Pike, who relishes her supporting role as a blonde ditz who cannot fathom why a girl would be interested in text books when she could be having fun. "Someone told me that in about 50 years, no-one will speak Latin, probably... not even Latin people," she trills. Emma Thompson enjoys a memorable cameo as the school's headmistress, who won't allow her girls to stray without a stern word. At the end of Jenny's journey of self-discovery, Miss Stubbs notes: "You sound old and wise." A little wistfully, the teenager replies, "I feel old, but not so wise", and we cannot help but smile with her.

- Sam Cannon


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