Directed by Lone Scherfig
Written by Lynn Barber (memoir) and Nick Hornby (screenplay)
Starring, Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Olivia Williams, Alfred Molina, Emma Thomson
Running time 100 minutes
Released: November 2009

Every once in a while, a film comes along that gets so many things right, it takes your breath away, reminding you of how powerful the medium can be and taking you back perhaps to the days when a movie seemed magical.

“An Education” is such a film. Buoyed by a breakout, dead-on performance by Carey Mulligan as Jenny and a contrastingly brave and sinuous one by Peter Saarsgard as David, not a single false note marred the production. It is humorous, scary, insightful, uplifting, surprising and hugely entertaining.

PLOT: It is the early sixties and Jenny is following the ham-fisted advice of her father (Alfred Molina) and of her rather wan and weary teachers (Olivia Williams and Emma Thompson) and doing what she must to get accepted at Oxford. She is the bright star in their orbit, that smart insightful student a teacher always hopes to find and rarely does.

On a rainy day, a stranger enters Jenny’s claustrophobic and drab world. David Goldman (Sarsgaard), twice her age, offers a means to cutting through the dull work (especially Latin) so she might quickly enter the brighter, more sophisticated world she craves. Surprisingly life throws up very few obstacles to her plan. David doesn’t seem overly predatory at first, his friends are entertaining and the world he introduces her to is even more seductive than he. Jenny is able to overlook one or two of his flaws in her eagerness to avoid the dull existence she sees as the fate of an educated woman of that era. An education does not have to take place in a classroom perhaps.

Any parent of a daughter will experience some queasy moments during AN EDUCATION, some dark spots, but in the end, Jenny’s intelligence and the people with her real interest at heart prevail. Highly recommended.

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.