An Education tells the story of a middleclass 16 year old girl in the 60’s named Jenny (Carey Mulligan), who talks and dreams of how she will live her life once she has managed to get into Oxford University and away from her parents. She will smoke cigarettes, speak French and dress in black, listen to whatever music she wants etc. Then along comes a much older man (Peter Sarsgaard) who can offer her access to everything that she dreams of; as well as other things such as jazz clubs and expensive art. Adapted from Lynn Barber’s memoir by Nick Hornby, this film deals with the allure of a worldly, experience based education against an academic one, and does a pretty good job of not preaching to us. It does feel as if it could have been taken a little further, have been a little harder hitting, which makes sense because I understand that Hornby softened some of the edges of the memoir when writing his adaptation. That aside, this is an enjoyable film, has several really good performances, and would be worth checking out if you ever have the chance.
This film is the one that’s often said to have really put Carey Mulligan on the map, and being a fan of her work I really had to check it out. If that wasn’t enough though, the excellent cast really would have convinced me. It includes; Olivia Williams, Cara Seymour, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper and Emma Thompson. That’s a pretty impressive collection of people if you ask me, and although they have varying amounts of screen time (Thompson has little more than a cameo) they all do a great job with their roles, Molina and Williams being particular noteworthy. It’s a shame that some of these couldn’t have had a little more to do, especially as I’ve already noted that the film felt a little reserved and as if it could have been filled in a little more, but still they all do a good job with what they are given.
Overall, An Education is a witty and at times affecting film. It has a great central performance by Mulligan, and avoids falling into several traps that the subject matter could have led it into. I recommend seeing it; it’s funny, entertaining and somewhat life affirming, just don’t sit down to it expecting the exceptional film that some critics described it as.