AN EDUCATION (12A, 100 mins) 8.5/10
A STAR is born. Twenty-four-year-old British actress Carey Mulligan positions herself as a serious Oscar contender with a mesmerising portrayal of a conflicted schoolgirl in Swinging Sixties London.
Based on a memoir by journalist Lynn Barber, An Education is a rites of passage story blessed with a touching and humorous script by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About A Boy).
Director Lone Scherfig beautifully evokes an era of mini-skirts, bouffant hair and childish innocence.
She delicately handles the heroine’s sexual awakening, mining a rich vein of humour in scenes between the girl and her parents, whose desire for their little girl to do well at university threaten to suffocate her.
Twickenham, 1961: 16-year-old schoolgirl Jenny (Mulligan) meets handsome stranger David (Peter Sarsgaard) on the street and is unsure how to respond to the attentions of the older man.
When their paths cross again, Jenny nervously accepts an invitation to a classical music concert with David’s business partner Danny (Dominic Cooper) and his girlfriend Helen (Rosamund Pike).
They gradually lead her stray with visits to late-night supper clubs and a trip to the country.
As a consequence, Jenny’s grades slip and her teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams) fears her best student is throwing her future away.
Still, Jenny is dazzled by her suitor – but not so much that she is willing to surrender to him, confiding: “I’m a virgin and I want to stay that way until I’m 17.”
As the milestone approaches, Jenny is torn between the hopes of her parents (Alfred Molina, Cara Seymour) and her burgeoning desires.
An Education is an elegant and affectionate portrait of post-war conservatism as seen through the eyes of a precocious, yet painfully naive teenager teetering on the cusp of womanhood.