An Education: A Coming of Age Film | A Coming of Age Film

Carey Mulligan stars as a gifted teenager and Peter Sarsgard the 30ish beau who pursues her in An Education (Kerry Brown, ©2009 Sony Pictures Classics) .

Danish director Lone Scherfig sets a new gold standard for the coming-of-age genre with a movie that hits the jackpot. Based on the memoir by British journalist Lynn Barber, An Education started as a small underdog project that went all the way to the Oscars, contending for Best Adapted Screenplay by Nick Hornby, Best Actress Carey Mulligan, and Best Picture of 2009.

IIn conservative 1960s suburban London, a smart, daring teenage girl becomes involved with a dashing 30-something gentleman who charms her parents into going along with it. Hornby’s screenplay snaps with smart dialogue, poignant comedy, and a fascinating story that will make you laugh, cry, and ponder, possibly all at the same time.

Carey Mulligan soars in her breakout role as Jenny, a gifted high school senior who gets initiated into a grown-up world when she is pursued by David, a man twice her age, played to perfection by Peter Sarsgaard (an Illinois native who does good British). Equally fine performances are delivered by Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour as Jenny’s loving and determined parents, Olivia Williams as Jenny’s prim but empathetic teacher, and Emma Thompson as the inflexible headmistress. The bonus jewel in the goldmine is David’s friend Helen (Rosamund Pike), whose character adds some brilliant comedy to an already satisfying story.

An Education offers something for everyone. The real events may have occurred decades ago in the U.K. but the themes are universal. It would be hard to not find something to relate to in this well-executed story. The title says it all. An Education is about a smart student aspiring to attend Oxford. It’s also about formal education versus learning from life experience. And it’s about what we as viewers can learn here, watching Jenny and her family learn about people and appearances and about themselves and each other. At the very least, this film will thoroughly entertain us. At best, we will all become the wiser.   A

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