An Education is advertised as a film written by Nick Hornby, an accomplished writer, whose previous screenwriting credits include High Fidelity (directed by Stephen Frears, whose film The Grifters is among my favourites). I found High Fidelity to be too formulaic, probably owing to the fact that I have never been a huge fan of the romantic comedy. I can understand why Nick Hornby's name and prior films may attract a certain audience, but An Education completely surpassed my expectations. The film owes every ounce of its success to its star Carey Mulligan, who is able to make Jenny a multidimensional character who is innocent at 16, but by no means naive. While Jenny is the central character of the film, the roles of her father and suitor are equally pivotal. With Alfred Molina as Jenny's father Jack, and Peter Sarsgaard as David, we understand how and why Jenny makes her decisions in the film.
Jenny, the only child of Jack and Marjorie, is in her final year of secondary school. After school is either spent studying or playing cello as part of a youth orchestra. She is a bright student and has visions of studying English at Oxford. Jack believes that being part of the orchestra and getting an A in Latin are necessary for her admittance to Oxford. Stuck in a rainstorm after rehearsal one evening, an older gentleman driving by notices a stranded Jenny. David is a charming, cultured and well-traveled man, and Jenny is immediately taken by his charm. Their first encounter is nothing but innocent and soon David is being introduced to Jack and Marjorie and is given permission to take Jenny out to a concert. Jenny meets David's friends Danny (Mamma Mia's Dominic Cooper, looking very disheveled) and Helen (a beautiful Rosamund Pike). Jenny enters a world of fine dining, art, music and travel. She begins to neglect her studies and her relationship with David blossoms. But can a 16 year old girl really have a relationship with a man in his 30s, even with her parents' consent?
An Education is a wonderful film, with fantastic performances by its supporting cast, including Emma Thompson and Sally Hawkins (whose performance in Happy-Go-Lucky was one of last year's finest). The film does belong to Carey Mulligan, and her portrayal of Jenny allows the audience to experience her education alongside her. The film is based off a memoir by Lynn Barber, a British journalist, which may account for the pitiful ending of the film. There is nothing more aggravating than a lousy ending to a good film.
My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4 (a half star reduction for a pathetic ending).