In 1962 a 16-year-old English schoolgirl finds herself in a whirlwind romance with an older man in this coming-of-age drama based on Lynn Barber's memoir. The Sony Pictures Classics release is nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
By CBSNews.com producer David Morgan
Jenny Mellor (Carey Mulligan) longs to be as far from her gray-brown London life as possible. Striving for entry to Oxford as much her own wish as her ambitious father's and swooning over French music, she dreams of a Continental life. "If I get to University, I'm going to read what I want and think about what I want and listen to what I want. And I'm going to look at paintings and go to French films and talk to people who know lots about lots," she says.
When rehearsing with the youth orchestra, she must contend with painfully shy, spotty boys, or the even younger boys who make fun of those with crushes on her.
Caught at a bus stop in a downpour, Jenny is greeted by a man in his 30s, David (Peter Sarsgaard). Wary of asking her into the car of a total stranger, David gallantly offers to drive her cello, protected from the rain, while she walks alongside. After a few soggy minutes, she steps into his car, and they talk of university, France and her wishes in life.
Flowers soon arrive on her doorstep, and Jenny's friends are flabbergasted when David crosses her path again and invites her on a date. "We're trying to attract the attention of boys. And she's fighting off men!" one says.
David proves himself to be a charmer, even with Jenny's risible father Jack (Alfred Molina) and mother Marjorie (Cara Seymour), and escorts the girl for a date and then "a bite of supper with my Aunt Helen."
After taking Jenny to a classical concert with a pair of friends, Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Helen (Rosamunde Pike) definitely not his aunt the four go to a nightclub.
From Nick Hornby's screenplay:
"She looks about twelve, but she's thrilled to be there. We know now that her life can never
be the same again, and there will be no going back ... "
His courtship of her continues. She plays hooky from school to attend an art auction, where she becomes David and Danny's stand-in bidder on a Pre-Raphaelite painting, and she comes up with a winner at the dog races.
Jenny's "coming out," as it were, in a simple black dress, marks her transition away from pimple-faced boys and towards a more adult world.
Jenny finds the truth behind David and Danny's "business" unsettling, but forgivable. But the couple has few illusions about Jenny.
David is a hit with Jenny's parents, however, especially when he feigns connections with Oxford University. Jenny goes along with the deception, now questioning whether she would go even if she does raise her Latin scores.
The couple embarks on a weekend in Paris, in the hope of fulfilling her dreams and his intentions.
But the tension in their relationship builds as Jenny realizes her path towards university might be diverted, and she must make choices about which way will lead her towards a more Continental, cultured life. She also sees into David's character more and more, and finds him more complicated, and unpredictable.
Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig, whose resume include works in the Dogma movement, directed "Italian for Beginners" (a Silver Bear winner at the Berlin Film Festival), "Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself," and "Just Like Home."
Carey Mulligan's first film appearance was as one of the Bennet Sisters in 2005's "Pride and Prejudice." Her TV roles included "Bleak House," "Northanger Abbey" and "Doctor Who," and she appeared in "The Greatest" with Pierce Brosnan before filming "An Education" at age 22. Her performance earned her several critics awards and the BAFTA. She is an Oscar nominee for Best Actress.
Peter Sarsgaard's film credits include "Boys Don't Cry," "K-19: The Widowmaker," "Garden State," "Kinsey," "Flightplan," "Jarhead," "Rendition," "Elegy" and "Orphan."
Carey Mulligan, Dominic Cooper and Emma Thompson (who plays the headmistress of Jenny's school) arrive at the London Film Festival Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009.
Carey Mulligan holds her Breakthrough Actress Award as she poses backstage at the 13th Annual Hollywood Awards Gala on Monday, Oct. 26, 2009, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Carey Mulligan arrives at the 25th Film Independent's Spirit Awards, held at the Nokia Event Deck at L.A. Live in Los Angeles, California, Friday, March 5, 2010. "An Education" won the Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film.
Carey Mulligan arrives during the 82nd Academy Awards Sunday, March 7, 2010. Mulligan was nominated for Best Actress.
Peter Sarsgaard and Carey Mulligan talk after arriving at the 82nd Academy Awards Sunday, March 7, 2010.
Carey Mulligan and Zoe Saldana ("Avatar," "Star Trek") on stage during the 82nd Academy Awards Sunday, March 7, 2010, in Los Angeles.