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An Education Review

A 17-year-old school girl in an English village in the 1960s, whose education is focused on preparing her for an admissions interview at Oxford, has desires of her own, which are summed up by the declaration that "At university I'm going to read what I want and wear black." The action of her life starts when one stormy day after a Youth Orchestra rehearsal she has the fortune or the misfortune of having a visiting man from a London lifestyle offer to rescue her cello from the pouring rainstorm. He saves the cello and drives slowly while she walks alongside until vicious thunder overhead drives her to ask if she "can get in with" her cello.

There begins the adventure of a lifetime. Jenny is swept by David into the proverbial whirl of concerts, restaurants, cigarettes smoking, jazz singers, fur stoles, dance clubs, late nights and mornings by the Seine while David's two close friends, Helen (Rosamund Pike) and Danny (Dominic Cooper), accompany the couple and the adventures.

Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is faced with the classic decision of having to choose between doing something "worth doing" (which had a dubious definition for a woman in the 1960s) that is eminently "hard and boring" in both process and outcome ("It doesn't have to be teaching, you know. There's the Civil Service.") and being with the man she loves with whom she can "go to Paris and Rome and listen to jazz and read and eat good food in nice restaurants and have fun." Tough choices when you are seventeen--and sometimes also when you're older than seventeen. Perhaps her circumstances will make the choice one way or the other for her.

An Education won both the 2009 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award and Cinematography Award; these wins were quite right and well justified. First, An Education has wonderfully appealing and sympathetic characters astutely played by some of our finest actors in combination with some relatively new ones. Second, John de Borman's cinematography captures two feelings at once. The reality of life is shown to great effect in such scenes as those inside Jenny's home and school, in the pouring rain, in the concert theater lobby. The magic of Jenny's situation is shown by such scenes as the aerial shot of Jenny and David running hand-in-hand up a street then up a long flight of stairs leading to some breathtaking inner sanctum of beauty, the long low angle shot of Jenny walking the guard rail of the River Seine, the restaurant where the camera starts on the jazz band and singer then pans wide to encompass a muted golden glow of backlight surrounding Jenny, David (Peter Sarsgaard), Helen and Danny seated at a center table.

Emma Thompson (Headmistress) and Alfred Molina (Jenny's father) in supporting roles add another layer of depth to An Education. No matter where An Education takes us, we are delighted by some of the finest of what filmmaking has to offer.

An Education is rated PG-13. Do respect the rating as there is topical subject matter and content that children's minds are less prepared to sort through.

Lone Scherfig - Director (2009)
Lynn Barber - An Education, Memoir Author
Nick Hornby - Writer
John de Borman - Cinematographer

Carey Mulligan - Jenny: [Pride & Prejudice]
Peter Sarsgaard - David: [Rendition]
Dominic Cooper - Danny: [Mamma Mia!, The History Boys, The Duchess]
Rosamund Pike - Helen: [Pride & Prejudice]
Alfred Molina - Jack, Jenny's father: [Spiderman 2, The Da Vinci Code, Silk]
Emma Thompson - Headmistress: [Nanny McPhee, Stranger Than Fiction, Last Chance Harvey]
Olivia Williams - Miss Stubbs, Jenny's teacher: [Peter Pan]
Cara Seymour - Marjorie, Jenny's mother

Buy An Education at Amazon Nick Hornby wrote An Education from the memoir An Education by Lynn Barber.

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