Monday, 3 August 2009

An Education

A cushioned lesson ...

Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a 16 year-old girl who is attempting to get into Oxford University and has high promise of doing so due to her exceptional intelligence. However, she feels that life is far too linear and she wishes to be able to express herself by listening to French music and going to the cinema and theatre whenever she can, but her parents forbid this for the most part. On a chance encounter Jenny meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), an older man who allows her the freedom to live life the way she wishes to do so.

An Education is adapted from the memoir of the British journalist Lynn Barber, and is a coming-of-age drama set in 1960's London. The story unfolds in a very standard fashion but it is the very core themes of the narrative which keep it engaging. The main theme of the film revolves around the importance of a rationalized living, such as getting a formal education and having the chance of being boxed into a typecast, versus living life to the full and having an existence on the foundation of enjoyment. The films is also evenly paced and while it is a fun and interesting watch, there is a slight mishap to the overall narrative structure which hinders the film greatly. While the film is set up by trying to understand how Jenny feels about her current life compared to the life she could have, the film does little to dwell on the realistic consequences of the actions made by many of the characters, especially Jenny. Any poor decisions she makes in her life are gazed across far too quickly, and those by other characters are none the better. It is a disheartening aspect to the story, and one which would have made the film more cohesive with it's message.

Nevertheless, there is not much else to criticize the film for. The acting, for instance, is superb with some natural performances. Most of the screen time is dominated by Mulligan and then Sarsgaard. While the chemistry between both never really works all the time, they are still appear amply suited. The rest of the cast all support these two and even the likes of the talented Emma Thompson and Alfred Molina never imbalance the fine equilibrium. Each character also comes across as unique. For example, where Mulligan's Jenny is rational and tries to act sophisticated, Rosamund Pike's Helen is ethereal and frivolous. These contrasts seem simple but they work in addressing the core concerns of the film.

Director Lone Scherfig does an amazing job with her creative vision of the script even though she does not create a unique cinematic experience. For the majority of the film, the camera work is understandably controlled, and helps to convey the characters as they ought to be. However, as if to aid the thematic notion of the film, when Jenny in introduced to a more a world of artistic expression, Scherfig is quick to make the camera work more loose and free, heightening the film's very premise of rationality versus emotion.

Beyond some implied sex and nudity, An Education contains little in terms of content with violence and language.

There is a charming simplicity to An Education which allows the narrative to unfold without any hindrance. The acting is great, the direction is just as good, and the story has some important messages to impart to audiences. Though as a coming-of-age story, An Education steers clear of trying to have an impact with its core themes, and ultimately suffers for convenience.


Screen date: 31 July 2009
Release date: N/A (Durban International Film Festival 2009)

1 comment:

An Education said...

It is the first film of Lone Scherfig that I liked. Carey Mulligan does a beautiful job in the lead role..she is looking hot and beautiful in this film ;-)