Have you ever wished that an older, richer, cultured man would fall in love with you and take you to Paris? That’s exactly what happens to Carey Mulligan’s character, Jenny Mellor, a bright sixteen-year old attending an all-girls school in 1960s-era London who is swept off her feet by handsome conman David Goldman, played by Peter Saarsgard. Based on a true story, An Education is about a girl who chooses between the school of life and her promising track towards Oxford University, discovering that shortcuts toward the future are never what they seem. The film takes a measured approach to the coming-of-age drama, sympathizing with the naïve Jenny and never judging her for her choices. The drizzly, grey, suburban London setting also lends a subdued tone to the film.
Mulligan was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in An Education, and rightfully so, as she infuses Jenny with the perfect amount of girlish innocence and extraordinary gravitas. Her delicate, elfin features and her breakthrough performance make Mulligan unforgettable and personally Jenny is one of my favourite characters ever on film. Saarsgard (aka Maggie Gyllenhaal’s husband IRL) is also utterly convincing as the charming, older suitor for young Jenny whom you almost wish would end up happily with her, until we find out his horrible secret. Mulligan and Saarsgard are supported by Alfred Molina (Doc Ock!) and Cara Seymour, who play Jenny’s foolish but loving parents, and Dominic Cooper (swoon!) and Rosamund Pike, David’s glamorous friends. Emma Thompson and Olivia Williams (perhaps best known in Wes Anderson's Rushmore, coincidentally playing another teacher) also have small roles as Jenny’s educators.
Other great Carey Mulligan films: the depressing Never Let Me Go (2010), exhilarating Drive (2011), and tragicomedic Inside Llewyn Davis (2013). She was also the star of one very famous and frightening Doctor Who episode, “Blink”, in 2007, which is also highly recommended.
Rating: 5 out of 5 rain-soaked cellos.