An Education is a story we’ve all seen before. There’s the older man seducing the young school girl. There’s the school girl stuck in limbo between childhood and adulthood. There are even the over-protective parents who only mean the best for their little girl. But despite all these conventional elements, this film is anything but conventional. It tackles the material in a new and intelligent way with an incredibly well-written script and stellar performances by every actor that appears on screen.
As the movie opens, we meet Jenny Millar (Carey Mulligan). She’s 16 years old and loves classical music, art, and French culture. She’s clearly the smartest student in her high school class and a teacher’s pet. She has a group of close girl friends and a boyfriend who’s nice enough but she doesn’t have anyone to really connect with on an intellectual level – including her parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour). Jenny’s lone goal in life is to get accepted to Oxford where she knows she’ll finally have someone to talk to.
Then one day, by chance, Jenny meets David (Peter Sarsgaard) – a dashing older man. Before she knows it, he and his friends have swept her up into their world of jazz clubs, art auctions, and trips to Paris. She’s finally living the life of which she had always dreamed – and she didn’t even have to study for tests or do boring Latin translations! Somehow it never crosses Jenny’s mind that it’s a little bit bizarre that a man twice her age could be so in love with her.
What makes this story so interesting is that, with the exception of Jenny’s teachers, no one else thinks the relationship is bizarre either. Her parents welcome David into their life and Jenny’s friends are completely encouraging. But this acceptance is what allows the film to convey its message. This isn’t a Lolita re-make; it’s about discovering a balance in life and learning that the easy way out is not the best way to truly achieve your dreams.
The director, Lone Scherfig, does an incredible job of re-creating the world of 1960’s suburban London. The costumes, music and cars bring the period to life in a beautiful and fun way. This is just window-dressing however, because the real beauty of the film is that it could be set at anytime and anywhere and be completely believable. In fact the school Jenny attends, the uniforms they wear, and the classes they take are amazingly similar to my high school experience in the mid 90’s. And all of the emotions and stress of getting into a good university are exactly the same. This is what allows the film to make such an emotional connection, especially with women. I think we can all see a bit of Jenny in ourselves!
Carey Mulligan turns in an amazing and nuanced performance and is truly worthy of the Oscar nomination she received. She carries every scene that she’s in and her face alone can convey all of Jenny’s feelings – which is a perfect portrayal of a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve! Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina and most of the supporting cast are also excellent but Mulligan completely steals the spotlight here. She’s beyond doubt, a star in the making.
An Education arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-4 encode with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This is far from the best looking Blu-ray, but it delivers a solid presentation. The colors don’t exactly stand out due to the somewhat flat image, but there are shots that present a great deal of colorful scenery. The skin tones appear to be natural abit pale, but looking good. Black levels are deep and nicely reproduced. There is layer of grain that tends to look heavier on darker scenes, but it simply adds a film like look. Overall the image looks very clean and crisp.
An Education arrives on Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Considering the type of movie this is, viewers will instantly know that it’s not the most demanding audio wise. The film is very front heavy, but it does an excellent job. The dialogue is clean, clear and crisp throughout. Each conversation can be heard with clarity and ease. The score is clean and clear and sets the tone as you are moving along with the movie. The rears are rarely used, but there are two segments in which they fully immerse the viewer. The thunderstorm at the beginning and the night club scenes are very well reproduced. This isn’t a film that requires much effects or anything of that nature it just does what the film calls for.
The special features add some background to the story and are worth a watch. I would have enjoyed some more in-depth analysis but there was enough here to keep me interested.
There are several scenes here that add quite a bit to the story. And considering the film is rather short, it’s surprising to me that they were deleted. There is one however, that was obviously intended to be the final scene of the movie. In it, David explains his motivation for everything. The explanation is totally irrelevant to the story and I’m so glad that it was not included in the final version of the film. In fact, I wish I could permanently delete this scene from my mind!
Commentary with Director Lone Scherfig and Actors Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard
This has some interesting moments but I wish they would have had a more in depth discussion of the film. There was lots of “I really like this part!”
The Making of An Education
A short feature about how the story went from page to screen
Walking the Red Carpet
We get to see the stars, producers, and director all dressed up at the Hollywood premiere
An Education is a coming of age/loss of innocence film like no other. And it’s beautifully presented in Blu-ray form. The film might appeal slightly more to women than to men but there’s enough here for everyone to enjoy. With a nice video and audio transfer you can’t go wrong, I give it my highest recommendation.