An Education

To Tara… for making my snowy Saturday evening much more enjoyable.

A year left behind with animated movies, international drama, bios, love stories, comedies… and finally a movie that is not similar to stuff I’ve recently seen… something that made me think.

Based on a short memoir written by Lynn Barber for the British literary journal Granta about her 1961 teenage affair with a man more than 20 years her senior, An Education was adapted for the screen by Nicky Hornby, and stars Carey Mulligan as 16-year-old Jenny (based on the young Lynn), and Peter Sarsgaard as David, the older man who shows her what life is beyond the classroom, her provencial parents and the suburbs.

In 1961 England, in the London suburb of Twickenham, the journey begins with a 16-year-old schoolgirl leaving an orchestra rehearsal. Walking with her cello, caught in the rain, Jenny is offered a ride by David, a handsome and apparently rich man. He pulls up in his Bristol sports car, tells her with a smile that she shouldn’t take a lift from a stranger but insists that he’s a music lover, and proposes that she put the cello in the car and walk alongside. First the cello, then herself, Jenny cannot resist and jumps in the car. That moment, brief though it is, marks the beginning of Jenny’s journey from innocence to experience.

As the movie unfolds, Jenny not only falls for David, a Jew and a wealthy lover of fine art and music, but also for his tasteful partner, Danny, who bids for pre-Raphaelite paintings at auctions, and Helen, his glamorous girlfriend à la mode. With an obvious ability to say the right thing at all times to all people, David even succeeds in talking Jenny’s provencial and shortsighted parents, portrayed by Cara Seymour and Alfred Molina, into taking her to weekend getaways to Oxford and to Paris. David is so good at what he does, he even seduces Jenny’s parents into believing in him.

Losing herself in the charms of a much older man, Jenny’s preparations to get into Oxford are derailed. The headmistress gives her two choices: an early marriage to David or an English degree. Both can’t be achieved. Just as Jenny decides to lean towards David, his betrayal soon brings her to her senses. By then, it may be too late for her to save her academic future and her reputation.

Every now and then, a perfomance comes along that takes me by storm. Carey Mulligan’s is certainly one of them. Jenny is a passionate Francophile who knows Juliette Greco lyrics by heart. She wants “to talk to people who know lots about lots, to smoke, to wear black and to listen to Jacques Brel”. She’s bright and intelligent but inexperienced and desperately wanting to be a sophisticate.

An Education is a dream of first love, from which the wake up could be slightly painful.

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