An Education – 2009 | 95 mins | Drama | Colour
An Education is a teenage girl’s coming-of-age story adapted by Nick Hornby from a spiky memoir by journalist Lynn Barber, which originally appeared in the literary magazine Granta. This bittersweet comedy romance is made safer and more accessible by screenwriter Nick Hornby, offering naivety instead of seediness and making her caddish suitor more charming than predatory. There’s a persistent comic tone which makes the light treatment of Jenny and David’s affair more palatable than it should be. This is provided partly by Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour as the likeable, naive, misguided parents, but partly by Rosamund Pike’s brilliant empty-headed socialite. Meanwhile, Carey Mulligan steals the acting honours as she produces the perfect blend of naivety and maturity that belies her character’s years, and her down-to-earth nature does much to compensate for some of the film’s less convincing, broader moments. The film was shot on location in and around London, Oxford and Paris, and on sound stages at Twickenham Studios.
Set in suburban Twickenham in 1961, strait-laced post-war austerity England is on the cusp of the free-spirited decade to come. Attractive, precocious 16-year-old schoolgirl, Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is poised on the brink of womanhood, dreaming of a rarefied, Gauloise-scented existence as she sings along to Juliette Greco in her bedroom. Jenny’s a diligent student, excelling in every subject except the Latin that her father is convinced will land her the place she dreams of at Oxford University.
One rainy 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.
Very quickly, David 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.
Under the pretext of an introduction to C.S. Lewis, David arranges to take Jenny on a weekend jaunt to Oxford with Danny and Helen. Later, using an ingenious mixture of flattery and fibbery, he persuades her parents to allow him to take their only daughter to Paris for her 17th birthday. Jack and Marjorie do not know that Jenny has chosen the date and place to lose her virginity.
Paris is all that Jenny imagined it would be, sex with David somewhat less so. On her return to Twickenham, Jenny’s school friends are thrilled with her newfound sophistication but her headmistress (Emma Thompson) is scandalised and her English teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams) is deeply disappointed that her prize pupil seems determined to throw away her evident gifts and certain chance of higher education.
Lone Scherfig: Director
John Deborman: Cinematography
Odile Dicks-Mireaux: Costume Design
Barney Pilling: Film Editing
Lizzie Yianni Georgiou: Makeup Department
Kle Savidge: Music Direction
Paul English: Original Music
Amanda Posey: Producer
Finola Dwyer: Producer
Andrew McAlpine: Production Design
Nick Hornby: Script
Glenn Freemantle: Sound
Lynn Barber: Source