An Education

There are tons of films that have been classified as coming-of-age tales, where experience is gained, lessons learned and character built. It’s a genre that has been tried and tested over and over. Sometimes the story inspires you, while oftentimes you are left indifferent. An Education, in a way, does neither. It’s simply a well-made movie with solid performances all around.


Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a supremely intelligent girl in 1960’s London trying to keep her eye on her goals: go to Oxford and someday live in Paris. With her authoritarian father Jack (Alfred Molina) and passive mother (Cara Seymour) pushing her to strive for higher education, Jenny is well on her way to achieving these goals. Then she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), a mysterious older gentleman who takes a liking to Jenny and somehow charms her parents. David gives Jenny the opportunities to experience the finer things in life, such as Paris and luxurious eateries and musical performances. However, David has an ominous secret that changes Jenny’s future.

To be quite frank, the plot of the film is more interesting than the actual film itself. The mystery surrounding David’s history builds and builds until the ultimate climax, but the explanation falls flat and goes relatively unnoticed as An Education limps to the finish line. We spend the whole movie trying to figure out what exactly David is hiding from Jenny and her parents [with hints from David’s cohort, Danny (Dominic Cooper)], but when the time comes for the reveal, you let out an “oh, that’s it?”

Molina, Mulligan and Sarsgaard all give excellent performances. I have previously mentioned Mulligan’s penchant for the shy, innocent yet strong girl and this role is not much different, so when the time comes for Jenny to stand up for herself, it is no surprise Mulligan does well. Molina ended up being my favorite player in the film as he portrays the social and gender inequities present in the 1960s. By happily giving his daughter to an older man with a complete disregard for all the work she did towards Oxford, Jack displays the unadulterated hypocrisy and unfair treatment with regards to young women in that era.

An Education fails to bring enough to the table to potentially interest you in a second viewing or even a wholehearted recommendation to a friend. By no means is the movie subpar or undeserving in the way it’s made and acted, but the story seems so banal that there is no true need to see it play out again. In a way, the realistic path of the story is its biggest flaw.

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