365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


An Education (2009)

Set in 1961 England, Carey Mulligan's (Shame, Drive) breakout performance in Lone Scherfig (One Day, Their Finest) is a movie that resonates in a way that is completely independent of its time frame as well as location. Does this mean it's a timeless classic? Well, when I think of timeless classics, I think of very different films than An Education. This beautiful film was on pace to be a timeless classic, one where everything is fine and dandy and one that I probably would not have enjoyed as much if not for a late twist. The setting of 1960's Europe doesn't exactly perk my interest. If as I write this in 2018, in my early 40's, when I am much more into the independents than I am the big blockbusters, the synopsis for this film doesn't attract, I can only imagine what I thought going into it back in 2009. I honestly have no idea what peeked my interest about this movie or what even got me past the first 15 minutes. Sure, a 95% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes will have some sort of positive effect, but even that can only care me so far. Whatever it was that encouraged me to continue on with this movie even, when I suspect, that I thought that I was getting into some sort of variation of Pride and Prejudice, Atonement or one of the many other Keira Knightley movies, I am grateful. I'd like to say that this movie had a lasting impact on me because it did. However, upon watching it for a second time, with an eight-year gap between viewings, I can unequivocally say that how I thought I remembered this movie was considerably different than what actually happened. I think I like it the same though I do feel differently about it, especially how I view the final act.

Still, her only Oscar nomination to date (she was snubbed in 2015 for her incredibly gritty performance in Suffragette), Mulligan's career performance may be in this, her first real starring role). She has actually had supporting parts in some of my favorite movies of all times. These include Shame, DriveBrothers, Public Enemies, Mudbound, and The Great Gatsby. Still just 32 years old at the time of this 2018 review, Mulligan will continue to wow audiences and critics alike. She will earn multiple Oscar nominations for future her work and will most likely win one. But, to many, she will forever be remembered as Jenny Mellor, a 16-year-old British scholar studying hard at a local prep school (that features roles by Emma Thompson as headmistress and Olivia Williams as an I told you so teacher) for her future admittance to Oxford University. Like many, it has been her single dream ever since she was a little girl. Standing in her way are not the lack of intelligence, undisciplined habits, addictive behaviors, insubordination, or any of the like. Everything is going exactly as she planned, right up until she was weeks away from her 17th birthday when she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard - Shattered Glass, Jackie), a suave, erudite, and handsome man who knows exactly the right thing to say and when to say it. Ideal right? Well...not really. David is twice Jenny's age. And while he might, indeed, be the right match for someone, she and David are on two different life planes. She might be unable to see past what she perceives to be glossy perfectionism.

Though set 55 years ago, the film's central theme is a universal one. Do we settle with the mundane, common life that we are used to when we are presented with something much greater? Is the reward of finding out if something is too to be true worth the risk of being wrong? Outside of our mothers and our fathers, is there anyone else in this world we can truly trust? Questions presented back in the 1960's are still applicable today and will be applicable 55 years from now as well. Like all of us, we don't know how we are going to react to every situation. We can train our minds to react to situations, but until these situations are presented to us in real life, we don't know the kind of impact our emotions will play. David turns Jenny's life upside down. It is not a spur of the moment type thing. It takes some time for David to really penetrate Jenny's life. Even during his initial courting, there is no indication that this bright, focused, woman is going to give up on her dream. Instead, she's just going to accommodate this new factor into her life. Sure, he's going to occupy a great deal of her time, but there are other aspects of her free time that she will give up so that she can spend time with him and still give plenty of time to her studies. But the attention that this older, good-looking man who shares Jenny's love of fine art, classical music, and foreign films is enthralling as are the opportunities to travel the world. The only thing more abundant that David's desire for Jenny seems to be his money and other resources he has to win her over.

Is this new infatuation enough to change the trajectory of Jenny's life? For any of us who have been in love before, we know how encompassing this feeling can be. It can blind us. It can cause us to abandon reason. It can cause us to act irrationally or in ways that we've never acted before. And for a this Renaissance Man to take an interest in someone (not so much as plain) as inexperienced and raw in life as Jenny caused her to fall for him in a way that she least expected. Scherfig did an amazing job with pacing. The goal of making a relationship form, blossom, and...(go from there) in under two hours that is both believable and affecting to the viewer is a feat in itself. Of course, the actors have a lot to do with that as well as the script. But it's the director who brings all of this together.

You might wonder about Jenny's home life. Where were her parents to prohibit this pedophile from seducing their daughter? Well, Jenny had a fantastic home life. Her parents weren't overly refined or world travelers. They didn't have a ton of money but were very comfortable living within their means. But just as Jenny was won over by the charisma of charisma so is her decent and traditional parents, father Jack (Alfred Molina -  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Frida) and mother Marjorie (Cara Seymour - Hotel Rwanda, Adaptation). Like any good parents, the thought of their 16-year-old daughter dating a 33-year-old man is unacceptable. But soon David has both of them eating out of the palm of his hand. He's a schmoozer, but professionally and personally. So if he is so easily able to influence and manipulate everyone he meets, imagine the potential danger he possesses...

Soon the couple is making England and other parts of Europe their playground. Sometimes they go out with some of David's friends, but often it's just the two of them. And, despite the age difference, what develops between them is rather beautiful. He's a kind, gentle soul who puts Jenny's interests first and we watch through her eyes as she falls deeper and deeper in love with him. They experience it all together. Their chemistry is magnetic. And, again, Scherfig does so much work in such a short period of time to convey that this relationship means so much to Jenny that she is willing to abandon her future to be with this man. And while he doesn't have to make the same sacrifices, Sarsgaard does such an amazing job of conveying his interest and appreciation for Jenny without it being *too* creepy.

So what was great about this movie? Its story fascinated me. The difference in David and Jenny's age should have been a red flag, but it wasn't. My biggest problem with Call Me By Your Name was that Oliver was so much older than Elio's 17. The age difference between David and Jenny was even greater, but it didn't bother me as much. Maybe it was because Jenny seemed more educated, sophisticated, and adult-like than the cocky and emotional Elio. Neither movie was overly sexual in its presentation. Both movies made a conscious decision to tone those components down. And it obviously worked for each movie with both movies earning Oscar nominations for Best Picture and each of its leads earning a Best Acting nomination. Maybe it was because Jenny's parents were in the know about the relationship where Elio's really weren't. Maybe Scherfig did a much better job than Luca Guadagnino, director of  Call Me By Your Name did in convincing me that this relationship was something more than a fling. Never did I feel like the relationship between Elio and Oliver was ever last beyond the summer they spent together. Maybe it was the third act of An Education that I was completely unprepared for. We knew SOMETHING had to happen. While there were signs to some sketchiness between some top characters as well as some side characters Helen (Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl, Hostiles) and Danny (Dominic Cooper - My Week with Marilyn, Miss You Already) important but we didn't really know why, there weren't a ton of clues to suggest what was actually going to happen. But, ironically, Call Me By Your Name offered nothing in terms of conflict or an unknown between characters. Call Me By Your Name really was a simple movie. I really don't know what earned it so much praise other than, like others who I've talked with, it just remains stuck in your head and refuses to leave, much like a song you hear at the grocery store and sing to yourself over and over for the remainder of that day. Sometimes you don't question why you enjoyed a movie. Instead, you're just glad the movie was there to enjoy. An Education is one of those examples.

Plot 9.5/10
Character Development 8.5/10
Character Chemistry 9/10
Acting 9/10
Screenplay 9/10
Directing 9.5/10
Cinematography 9.5/10
Sound 9.5/10
Hook and Reel 8.5/10
Universal Relevance 9/10

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