Film: An Education

Posted on March 9, 2011

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An Education
Directed by Lone Scherfig (2009)
jusco’s Rating: ★★★★★

First, I’d like to apologise to my readers (if I have any in the first place) for my long hiatus. Simply put, I got rather lazy. I’ve been reading a lot, watching a lot, listening to a lot as always but instead of clearing them as I went, they began to pile up until it was an intimidating load. But I’ll do my best, slowly but surely, to clear them one by one.

(The beautiful Carey Mulligan)

I watched An Education in cinemas in November 2009 and fell in love. I decided to re-watch it more than a year later in view of the upcoming release of Never Let Me Go (read my review here) and fell in love once again. Was the world prepared for another Audrey Hepburn? No, but I bet you there were many who were absolutely delighted by the appearance of an enchanting, new starlet. As for me, I was stricken with love – never had I felt that way before, and it was all because of Carey Mulligan. The premise is so: Carey plays Jenny, a 16-year-old bright British schoolgirl, hopes set on Oxford. One day, while walking home in the pouring rain with her bulky cello, she is offered a ride in a fancy car by a charming middle-aged gentleman, around the 30s. So begins a love story – not quite your typical one; in fact, some may view it as unnatural and even immoral but it is based entirely on the true story of the life of Lynn Barber.

(Jenny, the intelligent schoolgirl)

What holds the film together? Simple. Nick Hornby’s brilliant adapted screenplay of Lynn’s memoir (one of my favourite authors; I hold him in the highest regard and adore his novels such as High Fidelity and About a Boy) and powerful performances from the entire cast, with of course, Carey Mulligan shining every moment she is on screen. The supporting cast is superb. Smaller but substantial roles are provided for Emma Thompson, Olivia Williams, Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike, all extremely reliable performers.

(Jenny’s parents have a laugh with David)

(David’s friends: Danny and Helen, high-class and posh)

Alfred Molina plays Jenny’s father, loving but over-protective, humourous in the quirky, fatherly way. Cara Seymour plays her mother, the understanding mediator. Both parents truly want the best for her but are deftly deceived by David, played by Peter Sarsgaard, who proves why he is a master actor. His seduction of Jenny is swift but smooth, and I have no doubts whatsoever that lady audiences were just as enticed by him. He introduces a world of fun and excitement, of seeing sights and escaping the world of boring, meaningless education; to Carey, it’s irresistible. Paris? Who wouldn’t want to go there and feel like a princess?

(The first meeting. From this…)

(…to this.)

But it is Carey Mulligan. It is Carey Mulligan. Let’s just say that the minute I laid my eyes on her I could not look away. In fact, as embarrassing as it may sound, I was literally grinning like an idiot for the entirety of the film, failing to resist. The smallest of movements, the twitch of her mouth, the shy glances, the intelligent wit she utters, the adorable smile that melted my heart… even after the film had ended, I was still grinning away, much to the horror of my friend. Even her accent sounds more refined and appealing to the ears than most English accents. She is a genius and the world noticed that. No longer could she be ignored. She had easily established herself as one of the leading young ladies of the era and will continue to charm and amaze undoubtedly. Comparisons to Audrey Hepburn were drawn. It was beauty and brilliance.

(David and Jenny in Paris; a dream come true)

Jenny’s quest to discover what was really meaningful in life is deftly played out, and we are drawn in – we laugh with her, we cry with her, but ultimately we are left with a realistic and practical ending; and we are happy because we know this is all for the better. The glamour of parties, of never working and lavishly spending money – it’s not as fabulous as it is all made out to be, and very temporary. Jenny, and all of us, are given a lesson, an education, on the superficial indulgences and true importance of life. My 2nd favourite film of all time, this is one film to treasure, to watch over and over again, to fall in love with Carey Mulligan over and over again, until you can’t wipe that silly grin off your face. Oh boy, I’m grinning now.

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Posted in: 5-stars, film