An Education - Review of the Movie

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An Education, directed by Todd McCarthy, is about the personal adventures and intellectual curiosity of a 16-year-old girl, who is romanced by an older man. Set in 1961, the movie is based on British journalist Lynn Barber’s memoir.

The insightful script perfectly captures the cloistered life that Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is leading. An excellent student who loves all things French, Jenny is waiting to get accepted into Oxford, so that she can get out of her blinkered, suburban London upbringing. She is well aware of the sensual as well as the esoteric pleasures that are waiting to be discovered in the larger world, one that she isn’t permitted to step into by her conservative parents.

In the meanwhile, Jenny meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), a funny, smoothly charming man who is twice her age. He takes her out to concerts and smart clubs in town and introduces her to a range of new experiences. David even manages to charm her parents into letting him take their daughter on an overnight trip to Oxford with his friends.

When they share a room that night, David tries to steer the relationship into sensuous waters, but soon settles for romance, at least for the time being. There is a shadow of suspicious dealings over David. However, for Jenny what really matters is how life is so interesting with him around.

This naiveté towards what is really going on eventually falls heavily on her, but when she sums up the time she has spent with David, the good outweighs the bad. An Education is about trying out what life has on offer, the value of experience and learning through trial and error.

While the performances are uniformly superb, it’s the sparkling dialogue that’s the heartbeat of the movie. There’s absolutely no question as to who’s the star of the show. Mulligan is completely convincing as the attractive teenager thirsting for knowledge and culture even as she chafes at orthodox ways of behaviour and thought.

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