An Education – An Edifying Coming-Of-Age Film

I finally got to see An Education and absolutely loved it. The one-sentence summary: 16 year-old Oxford- bound British Schoolgirl Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is wooed by the suave, and much older David (Peter Sarsgaard) in 1961 London.

Nick Hornby wrote the adapted screenplay based on a memoir of the same name by British Journalist Lynn Barber and the film is directed by Lone Scherfig.

At first glance of the summary one might get a little queasy at the age difference, but this was a different time and one must view the film subjectively. And once you do, you’ll be just as swept away by David’s easy-going charm as Jenny. 

Carey Mulligan was the first actress this season to garner Oscar buzz, and rightfully so. Her Jenny is as believable naive as she is intelligent. Her transformation of character, both physically as well as mentally is astounding.

As the film opens we meet a slightly plain, but extremely bright and surprisingly cultured British schoolgirl on the verge of taking her exams in hopes of admission to Oxford.  Although she is following her parents’ wishes and the path laid out for her by the school she attends, she longs for adventure. Enthralled by a world she can only access through books and music, Jenny sees an education as a way to reach it.

It’s no wonder how Jenny is taken in by David’s charm. He sees the cultured woman she longs to be, the woman waiting to come out of her girly shell. After a particularly culturally exciting night out he says to her “You have taste. That’s not half the battle; that’s the whole war.” It’s hard as a viewer not to hope these two make it work. I’ll let you watch the film and find out how it ends for yourself.

This film is up for Best Ensemble at the SAGs this weekend. Its supporting cast really is amazing featuring wonderful performances by Emma Thompson, Dominic Cooper and Olivia Williams. The two stand-out supporting performances, however, belong to Rosamund Pike and Alfred Molina

Rosamund Pike is delightfully ditzy as Helen,  the girl of David’s best friend. She serves as the perfect opposite of Jenny. When Jenny says she wants to “Read English” at Oxford she’s confounded as to why anyone would want to do any such thing for 3 years. 

Alfred Molina gives one of the best performances of his career as Jenny’s father Jack, who “knows nothing of nightclubs, but about education.” He drives Jenny to reach for an Oxford education, but not for the world-expanding reasons Jenny wants to go, but to through her in the way of a proper husband. Let’s just say this does not go over well with Jenny.

This films does a wonderful job of showing what it’s like to be an intelligent girl at the edge of adulthood. It also does a good job of showing the flaws in the educational system of women 50 years ago, but could easily be a reflection of the state of the educational system today.


About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on January 22, 2010, in Review, SAGs, the Academy Awards and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

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