An Education is a 2009 British coming-of-age drama film based on an autobiographical memoir of the same title written by the British journalist Lynn Barber. The film was directed by Lone Scherfig, with screenplay written by Nick Hornby, and features an ensemble cast including Emma Thompson, Peter Sarsgaard, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams and Carey Mulligan in the lead role.
An Education premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, gaining critical acclaim. It screened on 10 September 2009 at the Toronto International Film Festival and was featured at the Telluride by the Sea Film Festival in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 19 September 2009. The film was shown on 9 October 2009, at the Mill Valley Film Festival. It went into theatrical release in the U.S. on October 16 and in the UK on October 30. On 2 February 2010 it was announced that the film had received three Academy Award Nominations in the categories of Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Plot In England in 1961, following a youth orchestra rehearsal, Jenny Mellor, a schoolgirl, is given a lift home by a charming older man, David Goldman. The two strike up a relationship, which includes David's business partner Danny, and Danny's vapid mistress, Helen. David manages to charm Jenny's protective parents into allowing him to take her to concerts, jazz clubs, and even to Paris.
Jenny finds out that David makes money by moving black families into flats near elderly women who are afraid of them, so he can then buy their flats cheaply. She also finds out that David and Danny steal valuable objects from houses that are for sale. On discovering this, Jenny is horrified and threatens to leave the relationship, but in the end she finds her new life so thrilling and enthralling that she chooses to overlook its darker side. After seeing Jenny dance with Danny, David hastily proposes marriage.
Her father agrees to the engagement, and Jenny drops out of school without taking her A-levels. While searching for cigarettes in David's glove compartment, Jenny finds a stack of letters addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. David Goldman". She demands that he tell her parents that he is already married, so she won't have to do it herself, but instead he drives off. Her old headmistress refuses to allow her to repeat her final year of school, so Jenny goes to the home of her favorite teacher, who helps her study and pass her A-levels. She is accepted to read English at Oxford, which had been her ambition before she met David.
The final scene shows her riding her bike on the streets of Oxford with a male student. Jenny narrates in the background: "So, I went to read English books, and did my best to avoid the speccy, spotty fate that Helen had predicted for me. I probably looked as wide-eyed, fresh, and artless as any other student...But I wasn't. One of the boys I went out with, and they really were boys, once asked me to go to Paris with him. And I told him I'd love to, I was dying to see Paris... as if I'd never been."
Carey Mulligan as Jenny Miller
Peter Sarsgaard as David Goldman
Dominic Cooper as Danny, David's friend and partner in crime. (Orlando Bloom was originally cast in this role, but dropped out before shooting began)
Rosamund Pike as Helen, Danny's girlfriend
Emma Thompson as Miss Walters, the headmistress at Jenny's school
Olivia Williams as Miss Stubbs, Jenny's concerned teacher
Alfred Molina as Jack Miller, Jenny's father
Cara Seymour as Marjorie Miller, Jenny's mother
Sally Hawkins as Sarah Goldman, David's wife
Matthew Beard as Graham, a boy Jenny knows from the Youth Orchestra they play in
Ellie Kendrick as Tina, Jenny's friend from school
Beth Rowley as a nightclub singer
Writing Nick Hornby created the screenplay based on an autobiographical essay by the British journalist Lynn Barber about her schoolgirl affair with conman Alan Prewalksi, known to her as Alan Green, which was published in the literary magazine Granta. Barber's full memoir, An Education, was not published in book form until June 2009, when filming had already been completed. Hornby said that what appealed to him in the memoir was that "She's a suburban girl who's frightened that she's going to get cut out of everything good that happens in the city. That, to me, is a big story in popular culture. It's the story of pretty much every rock 'n' roll band." Although the screenplay involved Hornby writing about a young teenage girl, he did not feel it was more challenging than writing any other character: "I think the moment you're writing about somebody who's not exactly you, then the challenge is all equal. I was glad that everyone around me on this movie was a woman so that they could watch me carefully. But I don't remember anyone saying to me, 'That isn't how women think.'"
Filming Although Jenny's family home and her school are supposed to be in the suburb of Twickenham, Middlesex, the residential scenes featured in the film were shot on location in the Gunnersbury area of Ealing, West London as well as Mattock Lane in West Ealing and The Japanese School in Acton which used to be a girls' school called Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls. The area is convincingly arranged to appear as it would look like in the 1960s, with the only noticeable exception being the 1990s period street lighting. However there are several other anachronistic errors, such as a Police two-tone horn at a time when bells were still used and skirt lengths and hairstyles of the schoolgirls. St John's Smith Square was not opened as a concert hall until 1969. There is also an error made when Jenny is admitted by Oxford University (admission is to colleges, not the University.) Later on in the film, the scene in which Jenny encounters David Goldman's wife outside her suburban home appear to be shot in the Woodside Park area of North London.
Reception The film currently holds a 95% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 164 critics' reviews. On Metacritic it holds an 85 rating based on 34 reviews.
While An Education received a vastly positive reception, one critic found the film's attitudes subtly but inherently anti-Semitic. She argues that the film's portrayal of the main character David, who is Jewish, as unrefined, unmanly, and unlike the cultured British people around him propagates damaging historic stereotypes of Jewish people. She also points out that while the film largely centres around the fact of David's Jewishness and his being different from other characters, "many of the glowing reviews fail to even mention that Jenny’s seducer is Jewish, or that the word “Jew” appears in the film."
An Education won the Audience Choice award and the Cinematography award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Mulligan won a Hollywood Film Festival award for Best Hollywood Breakthrough Performance for a Female. It was selected Sight & Sound's film of the month.
I must start with a brief warning. This is ridiculously long. It is also rather vague at points in an effort to avoid spoiling too much, which is not particularly possible in any case. On the other hand, if you think that the experience of watching this movie could be ruined even if I told you everything that happens, then you should under no circumstances bother with it anyway... and there's no point in reading the review. - An Education finds us in 1960's London, when men were men and … more
The year is 1962, and sixteen-year old Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a cello-playing student who hopes to attend Oxford. A chance meeting with a charming man twice her age quickly develops into a romance, opening up an exciting, glamorous world to the young girl. This is a coming-of-age story with a wonderful script and a stellar cast. Young Carey Mulligan is pretty, funny, sensitive, and gutsy and has loads of charisma. She didn't look quite young enough but was still delightful. … more
An intelligent and ambitious young student meets a charming older man, who sweeps her off her feet with his lavish lifestyle, and very quickly threatens to jeopardize her dreams of studying at Oxford. Carey Mulligan gives an admirably nuanced performance as the precocious 16-year-old Jenny, whose desire to escape her middle-class upbringing makes her ripe for seduction by the apparently world wise and street smart David, played intelligently by Peter Sarsgaard, who manages … more
The Oscars just wouldn't feel right if there wasn't at least one obnoxious period-piece British romance to pander to the tastes of the more "sophisticated" members of the Academy. Surprisingly, even with the number of Best Picture nominees bloated to an inexcusable Ten this year, there's only one real qualifier among the chosen. Even more unusual, it takes place in a different decade instead of a different century. For the Academy's consideration: An Education. … more
Carey Mulligan who plays Jenny in this 1960s period piece is amazing. But her performance is nearly wasted in what amounts to a boring film that literally undoes itself with 6 words with just a few minutes to go. Watch for her only.
AN EDUCATION gleams as little film so polished in every aspect that it is quite memorable. Based on a memoir by Lynn Barber and adapted very smartly for the screen by the talented Nick Hornby, AN EDUCATION, like every aspect of the film, is an understated bit of life. It is basically a 1960s London coming of age story of a 16 year old bright young student Jenny (Carey Mulligan, a true find) who life is focused on passing exams to gain entrance into Oxford to read English. Her father Jack (Alfred … more
Life is hard when you're sixteen and smarter than most of the people around you, especially when those people include your parents. You end up restless and bored much of the time and that, in combination with hormones, can cause you to sometimes do some very, very stupid things. That's the situation Jenny (Oscar-nominated Carey Mulligan, best known to me from her role as Sally Sparrow), is in in An Education, the Oscar-nominated movie from director Lone Scherfig and writer … more