An Education (2009)
Directed by: Lone Scherfig
Premise: Set in England in the mid-1960s, a seventeen-year-old schoolgirl (Carey Mulligan) begins a romantic relationship with a charming middle-aged man (Peter Sarsgaard).
What Works: An Education is a fun film that rewards intelligence on the part of the audience. The film gives a lot of credit to its female characters, who are consistently smart but also possess human frailty. Carey Mulligan gives a great performance and she plays the innocence and naiveté of the character while also maintaining her integrity; even when the character makes bad decisions, they are not stupid decisions, which is a very tricky feat for the actress and the screenplay to accomplish. One of the film’s high points is the relationship between Mulligan’s character and her father, played by Alfred Molina. As sexist and even thick as he sometimes is, there is also a sincerity and a sweetness to Molina’s performance and to the relationship between the characters that makes it very watchable.
What Doesn’t: The romantic relationship of the film has a credibility problem. Although Sarsgaard is very persuasive and charismatic, it is hard to believe that any responsible parent would allow their teenage daughter to carry on a relationship with him. An Education is partly about the value of learning both in the classroom and in the streets but this theme is not as coherent as it might be and was done far better in films like Adventureland.
Bottom Line: An Education makes for a very satisfying watch. Despite some leaps in credibility, the film has strong performances and its wit and intelligence save the film.
Episode: #273 (January 17, 2010)