A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"An Education" tells the story of a 16-year-old girl who is the target of a sophisticated seduction by a 35-year-old man. This happens in 1961, when 16-year-old girls were a great deal less knowing than they are now. Yet the movie isn't shabby or painful, but romantic and wonderfully entertaining.
It depends on a British actress named Carey Mulligan, who in her first major feature role is being compared by everyone with Audrey Hepburn. When you see her, you can't think of anyone else to compare her with. She makes the role luminous when it could have been sad or awkward. She has such lightness and grace, you're pretty sure this is the birth of a star.
All very well and good, you're thinking, but how is this film a romance? Oh, it's not so much a romance between the teenager and the middle-aged man. That only advances to the level of an infatuation. It's a romance between the girl, named Jenny, and the possibilities within her, the future before her, and the joy of being alive. Yes, she sheds a few tears. But she gets better than she gives, and in hindsight, this has been a valuable experience for her.
But wait? Doesn't this girl have parents? She certainly does. Jack and Marjorie (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) are proper, traditional middle-class parents in the London suburb of Twickenham, and there's nothing but love in the home. They aren't wealthy or worldly, but they wish the best for their girl and are bursting with pride that she's won a scholarship to Oxford. Then she springs David (Peter Sarsgaard) on them.