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An Education - Review

An Education

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DANISH director Lone Scherfig’s big screen adaptation of Lynn Barber’s coming-of-age memoir is so effortlessly enjoyable that you could easily be forgiven for overlooking just how accomplished the whole endeavour is.

In the wrong hands, it could have been a complete wreck given the difficult subject matter and bold decision to cast a relatively unknown actress in the pivotal lead role.

Scherfig, however, has assembled a crack team around her that duly delivers on every front – whether it’s Nick Hornby’s witty, incisive screenplay, the attention to pre-Swinging ’60s period detail or the breakthrough performance of its now Oscar-tipped star, Carey Mulligan.

And that’s not to mention stellar support from the likes of Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams and Emma Thompson… to name but a few!

Set in the early ’60s, An Education focuses on attractive and hyper-intelligent schoolgirl Jenny (Mulligan) as she bids to win a place at Oxford and live up to her parents’ expectations.

Things change dramatically for her, however, when she meets smooth-talking charmer David (Sarsgaard), who dazzles and then seduces her with the edgy world that lies beyond her safe, domestic existence.

As friends and teachers frown, Jenny rebels until the dangers in her newfound lifestyle suddenly begin to manifest themselves.

Taken at face value, An Education charts potentially provocative material and could have been sordid if handled incorrectly (or for sensationalist value).

Scherfig, however, isn’t interested in lingering on such things, opting instead for an altogether more breezy and innocent approach that cleverly parallels Jenny’s coming of age with that of English culture.

As such, the film is both immense fun and emotionally involving, as well as – quite possibly – one of the British hits of the year in waiting.

Performance-wise, Sarsgaard (complete with convincing British accent) channels the charisma inherent in David with an ignorance that keeps him endearing in spite of the danger surrounding him, while Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike are good value as his loyal best friends.

Emma Thompson is typically excellent as a strict headteacher, Olivia Williams a suitably sympathetic ally for Jenny (particularly late on) and Alfred Molina a near-perfect strict but woefully naive dad.

But it’s first and foremost Mulligan’s show and her authoritative central performance is An Education‘s biggest gift to the audience.

Mulligan exudes both confidence and humility in exemplary fashion, turning Jenny into a believable flesh and blood character whose swift passage from childhood to adulthood makes for utterly absorbing viewing.

She’s fully worthy of the Oscar buzz surrounding her and is the icing on top of an exceptionally tasty cinematic treat. Don’t miss!

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 100mins
UK Release Date: October 30, 2009