Movie Review: An Education

by Lone Scherfig

Title: An Education

Director: Lone Scherfig

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Tomatometer: 94%

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, involving sexual content and smoking

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Emma Thompson


It’s 1961 and attractive, bright 16-year-old schoolgirl, Jenny is poised on the brink of womanhood. Stifled by the tedium of adolescent routine, Jenny can’t wait for adult life to begin. One rainy day, her suburban life is upended by the arrival of an unsuitable suitor, 30- ish David. Urbane and witty, David introduces Jenny to a glittering new world of classical concerts and late-night suppers. Just as the family’s long-held dream of getting their brilliant daughter into Oxford seems within reach, Jenny is tempted by another kind of life. Will David be the making of Jenny or her undoing?


Here’s another movie I’ve been meaning to watch for a while. The premise is simple: 16 year old school girl Jenny falls in love with an older man who takes her to exciting places- Jazz Clubs, Art Auctions, Paris, etc. I knew all the way through that there was something he was hiding, but I didn’t know what it was going to be. It just didn’t have the feeling of a “happy ending” sort of movie, although I guess you could argue that it has the best ending possible.

An Education was kind of painful for me to watch. Jenny is naïve, and I was worried the entire time that David was just using her, with no thought to her feelings. But she didn’t even bat an eyelash, going along with whatever David says for the better part of the movie.


Her father, played by Alfred Molina, was no help at all, practically shoving her into David’s arms around the half-way mark. I began to wonder if he loved his daughter at all.

The best part of this movie was Carey Mulligan’s performance. She does a stunning job of going from naïve, very young schoolgirl whose main focus is on getting into Oxford, to an adult who knows what kind of terrible things life can throw at you, and yet you still survive. She’s quite a talented actress, and I’ve enjoyed her in everything I’ve seen her do. Even though she was making terrible life decisions, you are rooting for her, until the moment when she is terribly mean to a teacher who is only trying to help her. That was the moment you knew something was about to change. Olivia Williams plays Miss Stubbs, the teacher who is trying to keep her from doing something very stupid, and she is really the champion of this movie, even though she only has a limited amount of screen time.

Other important characters include David, played by Peter Sarsgaard, whom I could NOT bring myself to like. I wanted to like him, but every time he came onscreen I cringed. I would have rather had Jenny end up with David’s friend Danny, played by Dominic Cooper, who was not necessarily a better person, but I really like Dominic Cooper in romantic parts, so I was sort of rooting for him anyway. Emma Thompson has a few scenes as a rather unpleasant school principal, and as always, Ms. Thompson is a complete natural on the screen.

All in all, this movie is well acted, well written, and is a serious coming of age story that is a cautionary tale to young people. I found it a rather uncomfortable watch, but then, that was probably the point.

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