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An Education (10/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time 95 minutes
OK for children.
and attractive, bright 16-year-old schoolgirl, Jenny (Carey Mulligan,
who was 22 years old when she shot the film) 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 parentally ambitious father is convinced will land
her the place she (and he) dream of at Oxford
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 suitor.
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.
headmistress (Emma Thompson) is scandalized and her
English teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams, in an
award-deserving performance) is deeply disappointed that her prize pupil
seems determined to throw away her evident gifts and certain chance of
This British independent film is
brilliantly directed by Lone Sherfig, with a screenplay by Nick Hornby
(who also wrote the novel“About a Boy” that was made
into one of 2002’s best films), adapted from a slim memoir by Lynn
Barber about her 1961 schoolgirl romance with a man 20-years her senior.
Although Mulligan’s star-shaping performance clearly steals the show,
the veteran Sarsgaard isn’t far behind her. I still remember with
admiration his exceptional performance in 2003’s “Shattered Glass.” This
one is just as good. Sarsgaard
perfectly captures the charm necessary to make the charade work. Keeping
up with them is Williams, who had to be beautied-down to look like the
dowdy schoolmarm. She isn’t in many scenes, but she lights up the screen
in the ones in which she does appear.
This is the rare film that combines outstanding writing,
directing, and acting that keep it in mind long after it ends.