An Education

An Education

DIR: Lone Scherfig • WRI: Nick Hornby • PRO: Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey • DOP: John de Borman • ED: Barney Pilling • DES: Andrew McAlpine • CAST: Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike

An Education, funnily enough, presents the story of young schoolgirl Jennie (Carey Mulligan) and chronicles the events her whirlwind education on bridging the gap between childhood and adult life. The film is short, quaint, charming and, most importantly, affecting.

First off, director Lone Scherfig does an excellent job of setting the stage of early 1960s London. I think. Although I have no firsthand experience of this, the atmosphere is set by Jennie’s perpetual boredom with young life, and her eagerness for college, travel and other such worldly experiences. This aptly mirrors the blossoming of the sixties, and the slow transformation from ‘boring’ post war England. Or so I’d imagine. However, the additional references to emerging French Existentialism, social awkwardness regarding Jews (and the French, naturally), and C.S. Lewis help to set the scene delicately. Additionally, the almost militant drive of the female teachers in Jennie’s school to mould their pupils into successful independent women echoes the snowballing feminist thrust of this era nicely.

Perhaps the most significant culture shock of the whole film however, is the interest in and subsequent courtship of Jennie by the charming, businesslike, and altogether very VERY British, David (played by the American Peter Sarsgaard). It is obvious the man could easily be more than twice the sixteen-year-old’s age, and a modern mind instinctively suspects him to be a pervert. However, as this is the early 1960s, I forcibly remind myself that relationships like this were not uncommon. Never the less, for the entire film it is hard to shake the feeling that the man is depraved. Curiously, I admire this trait, as the uneasiness challenges some values of both the sixties and the current decade.

Regarding the pacing, it is not the most exciting film in the world, though it never claims to be. The tempo is steady, with no major peaks or troughs, but with a general acceleration of intrigue, chronicling Jennie’s background, her encounters, her choices, her mistakes and eventually her attempts to rectify them.

As this is not the most sensually arresting film, one would expect the dialogue and character interactions to impress. As expected, they are the film’s strong suit. Each character, despite being VERY British, is distinct and unique, and the fluidity of dialogue between individuals is very realistic. For example, Jennie initially struck dumb on her first few outings with David, is conversely impeccably quick and snappy with her father, which is believable, considering she has sixteen years experience at it.

An Education is such an insulated story that it is difficult to review without giving too much away. However, by the film’s conclusion, there are satisfactory answers to the questions asked therein. With a title like An Education, it doesn’t take a genius to guess the film may occasionally ponder on the merits of having an education. The film comprehensively confirms that although a school is not the only place to receive it, an education is necessary for the transition from childhood in to adult life. A difficult point to fault.

Jack McGlynn
(See biog here)

Rated 15a (see IFCO website for details)
An Education
is released on 30th Oct 2009
An Education – Official Website

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