What happens when a gifted and spirited teenage girl in pursuit of an Oxford University letter of acceptance meets an older guy eager to show her the world beyond books, school lessons, and strict moral guidelines. “An Education” is an exceptional film adaptation of Lynn Barber’s autobiography novel, depicting the dreams and struggles of young women in the early 60s.
Jenny, played by the talented Carey Mulligan, is a 16-year-old girl that lives in a decent home and enjoys the support of her family in her chase to study English literature at Oxford. One rainy day, she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard) a guy in his early thirties who mesmerizes young Jenny with his gentle manners, love for the art, and somewhat luxurious lifestyle that he decides to share with her. Even Jenny’s parents are dazzled by this mysterious bon vivant, who uses both his charm and social skills, that seem borderline sociopathic, to win the affection of the young girl’s family. Jenny goes through a series of adventures she is not yet mentally prepared for, even though David’s tendency to treat her as an adult leads her into thinking she’s finally living the life she always wanted.
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What makes this film different from other coming of age romantic dramas is the timeframe in which the story is set. It’s the early 60s and female emancipation is only beginning to take deeper social roots. Educated women don’t have too many options to choose from even after obtaining a college degree, many of them even face the choice between education and marriage. This is best portrayed through the characters of Jenny’s Latin teacher and prep school Headmistress, both of which seemingly lead boring lives, absent of all joy that young Jenny feels while in David’s company.
It doesn’t take a whole lot for Jenny to start missing out on her academics, she was willing to skip classes just to spend time in an auction house with her adult romantic friend. Although the movie doesn’t show too much of the downsides of David’s influence on Jenny, we had a chance to see her grades dropping due to poorly written Latin essays. The fact that the academic aspect was put to the side was due to Jenny herself being completely distracted from her educational efforts. Nowadays, these sorts of situations would be easily manageable simply by contacting the Edubirdie team to write an essay or finish your homework while you party in Paris. In the 60s England, however, missing out on your school obligations meant letting your future slowly sink down the drain. What’s even worst, the inexperienced teenager was not even aware that the luxurious lifestyle can come without consequences only through dedicated academic growth. This truth will come to Jenny much later at the cost of a broken heart.
At the height of her fascination with the life she discovered, Jenny felt that all of her hard work up until that moment was just a waste of time. Her girlfriends also shared her enthusiasm and supported her affection for an older man because they were astonished by the happiness and joy that this romantic affair brought into their lives as well. Expensive gifts, imported cigarettes, and interesting adventures seemed to be just the refreshment these schoolgirls needed to break away from daunting literary assignments, college preparations, Latin, and English literature essays.
The teachers, however, weren’t so supportive of Jenny’s romance; more precisely both her Latin teacher and the school Headmistress were openly opposed to this relationship and the magnetism of it that drew their brightest pupil away from a promising academic future. Still, their apparent monotonous lives among books, messy desks full of research papers, homework to be reviewed, and essays to be graded that made Jenny think she knew better. Jenny thought it was useless to spend time learning, researching, and writing essays for a lifestyle that brings no excitement. On the other side, David was the shortcut to a carefree life, and she didn’t even have to ask ca.edubirdie for help with schoolwork, because her mind was not set on New Latin Dictionary her father bought her or the B she got on her exam. Her life was more interesting, more promising, and fulfilled in ways her teachers could only dream or read about, so she decides to leave the school and accept David’s marriage proposal.
Things begin to go sideways, just as both Jenny and her family though the future could not be brighter. On the night the couple was about to celebrate their engagement, Jenny finds an envelope that reveals a secret that David is married. This knowledge breaks the girl’s heart, even more so, because David decides to drive off without ever offering an apology to her family. Through a sincere discussion with her Latin teacher, Jenny learns that life doesn’t have to be glamorous to be good. This simple fact of life was enough to make a bright girl understand that only education can allow her to create her way of life.
Lone Scherfig managed to direct this memoir into a fascinating movie that will take you on an inspirational journey. A memorable cast and brilliant script added to the production of a coming of age story that brings a valuable lesson for all teenage girls eager to live a life worth living.
Vendy Adams is a freelance content writer engaged with a series of online publishers. Her work is focused on education, academic lifestyle, and art-related content. As a writer, Vendy aims to bring valuable and practical information to her audience.