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An Education
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An Education – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Set in 1961 and based on journalist Lynn Barber’s story, an assiduous 16-year-old student, Jenny (Carey Mulligan), lives an austere, restricted life with her prudent parents (Alfred Molina, Cara Seymour) and dreams about reading English at Oxford. But everything changes when charming, 30-year-old David (Peter Sarsgaard) drives into her life, in his gorgeous maroon Bristol.

David introduces Jenny to a glittering world of classical music, late suppers in expensive restaurants, glamorous friends (Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike), art auctions and travels. He doesn’t only charm the impressionable Jenny, but he also sweet-talks her parents into letting him take her to a weekend in Oxford and then to a holiday in Paris, where Jenny loses her virginity to him.

Intoxicated by the pleasures of David’s seductive world, Jenny easily forgives David when she discovers that he is a cheat and a thief. And in spite of the warning of her teacher, Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams) and headmistress (Emma Thompson), she accepts a marriage proposal from him.

Ultimately, David’s deception becomes An Education to Jenny.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

This is one of those coming of age movies that delight and entertain on the one hand and disturb and anger on the other.

Told from the point of view of Jenny, we empathise with her boredom of the monotonous existence that she leads at home and at school, and then with her joys and delights as she dashes into the thick of life.

One problem though, she is only 16 years old, a hazardous age of untainted innocence and untamed ambitions, which makes her an easy prey for a seductive vulture like David, who doesn’t seem to adhere to any moral values.

The filmmakers go to great lengths to adorn David’s character with so much charm and wit that, in spite of his abhorrent and disturbing actions, we reluctantly grow to like him. After all, he is the only fun guy in this story.
But what is truly disturbing is the behaviour and naïveté of Jenny’s parents, who stand by and watch their daughter being conned by a guy twice her age. They, enchanted by David’s appeal and desperate to secure a brighter future for their daughter, encourage her to jettison a promising Oxford education and marry him, even though she has her own doubts.

Mind you, things were not rosy in 1961, when England was still emerging from the difficult times of post WW2. Therefore, it’s not inconceivable that people, young and old, would be easily tempted when they are offered a paved path out of their bleak life into a brighter one. After all, Stories like Jenny’s are a daily occurrence in poverty-stricken societies.

The script is embellished with witty and sharp dialogue and underpinned by interesting characters, but sometimes it stretches the limits of credibility, particularly when we learn that David lived a few blocks away from Jenny, yet no one knew who he was in spite of his unflattering reputation.

Carey Mulligan delivers a captivating performance, as she inhabits Jenny’s character. She’s in her mid-twenties, but she believably looks and acts like a 16-years-girl and convincingly conveys Jenny’s moments of frustrating boredom, thrilling excitement and profound sadness. Peter Sarsgaard impresses us with his charm and wit as he fools us into liking his odious character. The rest of the cast are equally strong.

The photography, production and costume design impressively recreate and capture the mood of England’s early sixties.

Opens nationwide 30th October 2009

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