an education

With Nick Hornby’s latest bit of writing about to hit theatres with Wild starring Reese Witherspoon, we take a look back at another journey of self-discover he penned, An Education.

What’s it about: Set in 1960s Britain, Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a top student who dreams of getting into Oxford and then going on to explore the world—a dream her parents are encouraging, though not for the same reasons. When she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), an older man who can offer her all the things she wants without the work, she lets herself get led astray. Unfortunately David isn’t who he’s pretending to be, and Jenny’s future ends up on the line.

Who’s in it: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Emma Thompson, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper

How come you haven’t heard of (or seen) it: Mulligan was only starting to make her mark on American minds with this critically acclaimed film—she blew up a couple of years after this with Shame and Drive. With the exception of Thompson and possibly Skarsgaard, the same could be said for the rest of the cast (Pike is really only having her moment now). Without a massive name attached to it, An Education lived as a critical darling, but might not have caught everyone’s attention at the time.

Why you need to watch it—immediately!

  • If you were blown away by Mulligan’s performances in later films, especially Never Let Me Go, you’ll definitely want to watch her (very early) portrayal of a young woman’s journey into disenchantment and back.
  • As a period piece, An Education does a great job of laying out some of the big questions facing women as they pursued an education without necessarily having a bigger goal to go with it.
  • The film also weighs life experience against book learning, and questions both while offering some thought-provoking commentary.
  • A link could be made between this film and Jane Eyre, and Jenny’s modern reaction is a satisfying consolation prize for anyone who dragged themselves to the end of that beast.
  • Pike’s look of pure disgust at a classical music concert may be some of her finest work.
  • Dominic Cooper does jaunty fedora well—that’s always a plus.

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