Opening 18 Feb 2010
A sixteen-year-old girl finds herself at a crossroads: an education based on life, or on books? Either choice has consequences. Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is cute, studious, and smart; she plays the cello, and dreamily sings along (in French) to Juliette Greco in her Twickenham bedroom. Jenny is itching to leave behind her prep school uniform, and the tedium it represents, for the sophistication of adulthood.
Marjorie (Cara Seymour) and Jack (Alfred Molina) want the best for their daughter; in 1961 post-war London life is optimistic, especially if one has a good education. They believe Jenny will get into Oxford; Jack worries about her Latin grade and incessantly berates Jenny to study the language better. Then, one ordinary rainy day on her way home from school, an older, charismatic man offers to help Jenny with her cello, and her life is forever changed.
David (Peter Sarsgaard) is witty and worldly, thirty-something, drives a Bristol roadster, and even smokes Gauloise cigarettes. He manages to sweep Jenny’s conservative parents off their feet as well; initially they allow her to accompany David to a cello recital in Chelsea, and a late supper afterwards with “Aunt” Helen, in reality his business partner Danny’s (Dominic Cooper) girlfriend, Helen (Rosamund Pike). What next? Paris? Out of the blue, life is everything Jenny dreams it could be, as David conducts his intensive course in “the school of life.”
At her prim, traditional school, the Headmistress (Emma Thompson) hears about the liaison and calls Jenny into her office, whereby she is quite clear about what the repercussions will be if Jenny continues on this haphazard course. Before walking out of the room, Jenny says, “It’s not enough to educate us anymore, Miss Walters. You have to tell us why.” Her English teacher, Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams) tells her prize student how disheartened she is that Jenny seems determined to throw away her talents and the future a higher education could bring her.
With aplomb, Nick Hornby fashions a feature length screenplay from Lynn Barber’s autobiographical short story. Danish director Lone Scherfig convincingly captures the English stuffiness and nostalgic charm, with help from Andrew McAlpine’s Production Design and Odile Dicks-Mireaux’s Costume Design, of the eve of that explosive decade, "The Sixties." The actors’ performances are stellar; expect to see more of Mulligan, and all the production values are good. Not a film for a wide audience, An Education is poignant, sometimes funny, charming, and thought provoking… a good chick-flick. (Marinell Haegelin)