An Education

Well, it’s the middle of final paper season, but fear not!  I’m still finding time for blogging.  And procrastinating.  And watching movies.  And procrastinating by blogging about watching movies.  Among the more interesting movies I’ve watched of late has been the British film An Education (2009).

An Education is set in 1960s London, a more innocent age on the verge of becoming, well, a significantly less innocent age.  The star of the movie is Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a smart 16-year old at an all-girls academy with a bright academic future ahead of her, if all goes well, at Oxford.

Jenny’s home life is a bit oppressive, and her parents are rather dull.  Alfred Molina turns in a particularly good performance as Jenny’s father, Jack, who manages to come across as bumbling, overbearing, and awkwardly caring all at the same time.  In the end, despite appearing almost tyrannical in his desire for Jenny to do well at school, Jack’s greatest fault turns out to be his naïveté.  Jenny faults him for not being strict enough.

Jenny’s education in the film comes not from her Latin textbooks, but from David (Peter Sarsgaard) a charming older man who suddenly takes an interest in Jenny.  By older, I mean roughly twice Jenny’s age.  There are hints that Jenny begins to see the problems in this relationship, but David is charming, really charming.  He charms Jenny’s parents into letting her do things she’d never dreamed they would, such as accompanying him to Paris for the weekend.

Of course, it’s really a mixture of charm, manipulation, and outright lying that allows David to bedazzle Jenny’s parents, something she realizes but doesn’t quite reject.  She knows something is wrong with David, and bit-by-bit she learns more about him, learns things she doesn’t like, things that make her uneasy, but each time—well, maybe those things weren’t quite so bad…

I won’t give away the details of the ending, but suffice it to say that Jenny ends up back in the reality of her middle class existence.  What I like about the movie is the reality of that existence; it is a little oppressive; it is filled with petty bourgeois bigotries.  Jenny’s reality involves imperfect but loving parents and hard work with decidedly unglamorous rewards.  But it is reality, and, ultimately, reality is better than a beguiling lie.

One Response to An Education

  1. Qualis Rex says:

    Hmmm, I’d never heard about this movie, but just from looking at the photo my interest is piqued (they were obviously going for Audrey Hepburn there).

    Although I never lived during those times (like you I was born long after the 60’s) but I guess vicariously nostalgic for them in that I saw films from that era during MY youth and just assumed what life must have been like then, based on “Breakfast at Tifany’s”, “Goldfinger” “A Nun’s Story” etc. Yet at the same time, there were a host of issues going on, such as starvation, segregation, elitism/racism etc which make it far less “innocent” when you really think about it. Of course, we deal with a host of issues that weren’t present back then, so maybe “innocence” is really subjective.

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