Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours
I’m not sure how I missed this film when it first came out. I suspect it was because I hadn’t started making a point to see all the Oscar-nominated films of that year—and 2009 bumped that number up significantly from five to ten. At any rate, I’m glad I eventually came around to it as it was a delightful—if not mostly generic—coming-of-age story. The only modern and recent example I can think of that equates to An Education (2009) is Lady Bird (2017), and I loved that film for similar reasons.
As someone who generally grew up feeling “older” than his peers, I could relate to Jenny (Carey Mulligan, in her best Audrey Hepburn impersonation). There’s a point when some teenagers like Jenny think they’ve figured out the “rules” of life and are therefore ready to jump into adulthood with both feet. This is definitely where the titular “education” comes in. It’s both a statement of learning how life can be cruel and the protagonist’s reluctant motivation to attend Oxford at the behest of her parents (with Alfred Molina somewhat reprising his role in Chocolat (2000)).
While I’m still not entirely comfortable with the statutory aspect of this film (similar to my feelings on Call Me By Your Name (2017)), the largest qualm I have with it is the twist near the end that veers almost all the way into trope territory. It’s no wonder that men get the bad rap they do with these kinds of characters being portrayed on the big screen. Sure, it’s a critical incident that pushes Jenny into a healthy mindset of enjoying her childhood while she still can, but I almost wonder if there could have been a different way to go about it.
A somewhat generic—but still incredibly charming—coming-of-age film, I give An Education 4.0 stars out of 5.