For years now Nick Hornby has had his books made into films and they have been incredibly successful. But in An Education the popular writer translates an autobiographical essay by journalist Lynn Barber into a successful screenplay. Match the storytelling strength with high quality actors like leads Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard and supporting cast Dominic Cooper and Emma Thompson. On paper, An Education has all the makings of a charming, well made and well acted film. And it delivers.
Set in 1961, Mulligan portrays 16-year old Jenny, a working class schoolgirl striving to maintain her grades in order to gain acceptance to Oxford University. But the clever, giggly teenager randomly meets a charming, handsome older man (Sarsgaard as David) on the street. The two begin an unlikely courtship with David using his seemingly unstoppable charm and wit to gain her parents’ acceptance.
David wines and dines Jenny with fancy cigarettes, a trip to Paris and nearly anything her heart desires. But for Jenny, certain things don’t add up. She starts questioning her boyfriend’s activities but never challenges him too much. Jenny’s satisfied to not ask too many questions for fear of losing her new found excitement. Naturally, things are too good to be true.
It typical film fashion, the film finds an easy conclusion that neatly ties everything up. But what happens to David? For those viewers not asking for much, the film provides. But for those looking for something a bit more, the conclusion is a bit of a disappointment given the consistency and strength of An Education until the final moments.