As young women, all of us still have much to learn about life, love and our careers. There’ll never be a simple answer to all of our problems in life, but it’s always comforting to know that we’re not in it alone. For me, one of the most encouraging tales is featured in An Education, the story of young Jenny (Carey Mulligan), studying relentlessly to accomplish her dream of getting into Oxford. Salvation arrives in the form of charming, older David (Peter Sarsgaard), who introduces her to a world full of decadence and begins to challenge her idea of what life is all about.
Coming-of-age tales are abundant throughout cinema – but few are so beguiling as An Education. This film is not just about a romance between an intelligent teenager and an untrustworthy middle-aged man. It also explores the question of whether you should choose to experience the excitement of life or work hard with the hope that it pays off in the future?
The romance between Jenny and David only ever advances to the level of infatuation, surrounded with art auctions, Ravel concerts and trips to Paris. The real romance here is between the young girl and the possibilities within her, the future before her, and the sheer joy of being alive. When David’s true character is revealed, Jenny inevitably sheds a few tears, but she soon pieces her life back together, and along with the benefit of hindsight, the audience knows that this was a valuable experience for her.
Witnessing Jenny’s education, with all of its turbulence, is illuminating. As a teenager, Jenny’s insatiable craving for sophistication mirrored much of my own. Spending most of her nights singing along to French vinyl, dreaming of “going to Paris, to smoke, wear black and listen to Jaques Brel” – she represents both the braininess and restless hormonal energy of many adolescents.
Overall, An Education is a film that offers valued advice. When someone seems too good to be true, be mindful that they are most likely neither good nor true. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when they’re growing up. Hopefully, we learn from them. And more than anything, you must certainly see Paris.