This is one lovely film about a sixteen-year-old girl who knows she is not getting everything life has to offer from her calm suburban household. The girl is Jenny (Carey Mulligan); she is smart, pretty, and nice: the type of girl we would all like to date in high school. Unfortunately for Jenny she lives in the time before The Beatles; a time in which a girl can only hope for three possible futures: become a secretary, become a housewife, or become a teacher at a school that teaches girls to become one of the previous. Jenny does not see herself as any of the three and finds them quite boring (ad with good reason).
Then, during one rainy afternoon, she meets David (Peter Sasgaard) a handsome, cultured, and charming suitor. Problem is David is over twice Jenny’s age. This does not seem to worry Jenny much. She willingly hops into his sports car when he offers a ride, and then accepts when he invites her to see a live Jazz performance, and later goes off to Oxford for a weekend with David and his friends (honestly who wouldn’t). Slowly but surely Jenny begins to fall in love with the lifestyle David and his friends follow and David begins to wonder if Jenny might enjoy… a trip to Paris. There are of course a few obstacles along the way, mostly Jenny’s parents and teachers. But David is smooth enough that he is brilliantly able to sweet talk her parents and Jenny is rebellious enough not to care what her teachers think of her. Her parents are also naïve enough to believe David has no ill intentions when he says his “aunt” will be “chaperoning” when they go to Paris. Anyway you know how these affairs go. And they usually do not end well.
The screenplay is adapted from a novel by a woman who found herself in the same situation, which probably adds to the convincing factor within the film. But film’s true ground relies on the brilliant performances of the cast. This is Carrey Mulligan’s first feature role; she carries it as if she was a veteran of many years and has received an Oscar nomination for it (against Bullock, Mirren and Streep; I believe she deserves it). Sasgaard also does a brilliant job as David; he brings us into the character and almost makes us believe that he might actually be good for Jenny (despite of the age difference) before his true nature is revealed. Alfred Molina, as Jenny’s father, is a joy to watch. Molina plays the conservative suburban head-of-the-house with such charm and lightness that it is hard not to laugh (at some points we do) and yet he makes us understand that Jenny’s father is not as naïve as we think but rather so proud of Jenny that he believes she knows what is best.
In the end An Education is a piece of advice, a very good piece of advice; all mistakes have something to teach us and the best way to learn is through them.
(This review will go up once the Oscars have passed, so we will learn by then if Mulligan wins. I will also like to say that out of the 10 best picture nominees it is the most traditional. I doubt it will win but it is the underdog I was rooting for).