In An Education, Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan plays a 16-year-old London suburban schoolgirl in 1961.
Jenny has aspirations for Oxford, but Latin is a problem. She goes to a strict private school, and her anxious parents (Cara Seymour and Alfred Molina) have kept her on the straight and narrow.
But Jenny loves French pop records and has a teenage dream of romance. One day, as she is carrying her cello home from school in the pouring rain, a suave stranger named David (Peter Sarsgaard) offers to give her instrument — not her — a lift. It's not innocent. Soon their little encounter turns into attending classical concerts and art auctions, and going for drinks at clubs and on trips out of town.
The new world that David has introduced her to, which includes his cool friends, Danny and Helen (Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike), begins to make her question the academic life for which she is headed. Meanwhile, his sophistication has won over her parents.
By then, An Education — based on a memoir by British journalist Lynn Barber — is headed for tricky territory, but director Lone Scherfig and screenwriter Nick Hornby never overplay the situation.
Mulligan is irresistible. It's easy to fall into Jenny's story because of her.
Sarsgaard manages to seem both unctuous and not entirely unsympathetic. All of the supporting roles are sharply drawn and played, including Olivia Williams as a kindly teacher and Emma Thompson as the disapproving headmistress.
An Education would be a different story if it were set today rather than 1961, but that's part of the film's charm, knowing the changes that were coming in the decade.
An Education retails for $28.96 or $38.96 on Blu-ray.