Country: United Kingdom
Rating: 4 out of 5
Although ''An Education'' mostly maintains a light tone, it tells, in fact, a cautionary tale for not just teenagers but also for their parents.
The protagonist is Jenny, played by the lovely Carey Mulligan. It is the early 1960s and Jenny is 16 years old and is in high school. She is intelligent and plans to eventually attend Oxford University. Her parents- played by Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour- are loving and caring- however, they- especially Jenny's father Jack- desperately want their daughter to succeed and have a happy life. Jack's desperation is tremendous: he does not want Jenny to get involved in such extracurricular activities that will not contribute much to her chances of getting into Oxford. In short, Jack wants Jenny to be involved only in such activities that will help her get into Oxford- other activities and interests are not allowed at all. Although Jenny succeeds in school and is fond of studying, she is also interested in other things in her life. She is also interested to have fun and enjoy life- particularly having a strong affection for France and the French culture- speaking fluent French and listening to French songs, something her father greatly disapproves of.
Nothing dramatic happens in Jenny's life until David- played by Peter Sarsgaard- steps in. David is in his 30s, and is handsome and charming. Although they have a chance encounter, Jenny eventually becomes very close to David and falls in love with him. David looks wealthy and interested in arts and culture- things that Jenny is interested in as well. However, things aren't as simple as they seem, and Jenny's decision to start an affair with David seems to be a wrong one when things unfold.
''An Education' does have a light tone and at some points it can even pass as a romantic comedy. However, in the midst of the lightness the film raises different questions.
The first question that the film brought to my mind was the way Jenny's parents treated her. Sure, they loved her and cared for her future security. But this much fussing can mess any teenager's mind up. It would have been a different issue had Jenny not been serious about her studies. However, Jenny is serious about her studies and it would have harmed nobody had she been allowed to pursue whatever she wanted to pursue. I mean, her father was obsessed with her getting into Oxford and being the excellent student she was, she would easily get into Oxford, being involved in certain extracurricular activities would not, by any means, hurt her chances of getting into Oxford. He could never get to understand the things his daughter was actually interested in and much of the disastrous consequences we see in the film would not have happened had Jenny not felt cornered by her parents and the discussions that used to take place in her household. Perhaps she would not have felt smitten by a man almost two decades older had she been understood by her parents. Parents should also pay careful attention to the kind of people their children mix with. Several decisions that Jenny's parents take over the course of the film seem really naive.
When Jenny introduces a friend of hers to her parents and the friend- played by Matthew Beard, who would eventually play an important role in ''The Imitation Game''- tells her parents that he plans to take a year off before going to university, Jenny's father is baffled. Parents should be aware of the fact that there is nothing nothing in wanting to do something unconventional. They should respect the desires of teenagers- an unconventional plan does not necessarily indicate that it is a worthless plan. Parents should also put importance to education for the sake of education, not just for the sake of having a good career in the future. At one point in the film, it seems, Jenny's father only prioritizes education for the sake of a future career. And in that case, Jenny's father sees little difference between an elite education or marrying a wealthy person.
Teenagers, at the same time, have a lot to learn from this film. Life is long and offers many, many promises. Education, however, comes first. When a person is empowered with education, there are many decisions that they are able to take, many things that they are able to do, many choices they are able to make. Jenny was misled by the way David showed her that he was greatly into arts and culture and she made certain choices which she eventually gets to regret- she should have kept in mind that once she had the proper education, she could explore as much life as she wanted to. Then again, like I mentioned before, perhaps she could have made the right choices had her parents been a bit more understanding.
This is a very well-made film, with an excellent screenplay and great performances. As Jenny, Carey Mulligan is simply magnificent. The handsome Peter Sarsgaard is great in his role as well. Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour, playing Jenny's parents, are great as well. Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike play two friends of David's, and they are great in their important supporting roles. The great Emma Thomopson makes brief appearances as Jenny's well-meaning but strict headmistress. I was also delighted to see Ellie Kendrick- the lovely girl who played Anne Frank in the 2009 television adaptation of the diary- playing one of Jenny's close friends.
This is a very enjoyable and lighthearted film that, in spite of its lightheartedness, tells a cautionary tale.