An Education, London Film Festival

4.00

London swings back into shot

An Education arrives at the London Film Festival almost a year after its Sundance premiere. Given that this is a London-set film showcasing the best of British talent (Lynn Barber, whose childhood memoirs inspired it, screenwriter Nick Hornby, rising young star Carey Mulligan, Emma Thompson, Alfred Molina and others), it's perverse that UK audiences have had to wait so long to see it.

This is a small film but an acutely well-observed and well-acted one that benefits from Mulligan's performance, sly and affecting by turns, as the teenager growing up in early 1960s London suburbia and having an affair with a much older man. The Sixties revolution hasn't quite happened. We're in that little window of time between "the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles' first LP" (to quote poet Philip Larkin). Social and generational change are in the air but, on the outside at least, this is still a repressive era. Middle-class England is full of couples like Jack and Marjorie (Molina and Cara Seymour): fretful, conservative types trying to keep up appearances.

Jenny (Mulligan) is the free-spirited daughter being groomed by Jack and Marjorie for the Oxbridge education they hope will lift her (and them) up the social scale. If Jenny passes her exams and gets into a good university, she stands a better chance of finding the right kind of husband. The plans for Jenny are thrown askew when she is picked up at a bus stop by the debonair David (Peter Sarsgaard), a roué and property developer who loves jazz, art and fine dining. At first, she is utterly enraptured by him. So are her parents. The fact that he may well be having sex with their 16-year-old daughter doesn't bother them at all when he is so wealthy and so well-spoken.

An Education is directed in engagingly idiosyncratic fashion by the Danish film-maker, Lone Scherfig. She brings an outsider's eye to material that would almost certainly have been tackled in far more earnest fashion by a British director. The film touches on some grim aspects of the Britain it depicts: the hidden racism, the ruthlessness of slum landlords, the hypocrisy of the middle classes. There is something queasy about the central relationship, too: this is a story about a middle-aged man preying on a virginal teenage girl. However, Jenny's anarchic spirit is matched by that of the director, who manages to strike a playful and sometimes whimsical note without trivialising the issues.

Jenny may like to think she is a sophisticated, Juliette Gréco-loving young woman about town, but she is really just a schoolgirl who has to wait at bus stops in the rain. Mulligan captures both her precocity and her naiveté.

We're in an England where there is a lot of penny-pinching going on. As the film makes clear again and again, there is a huge gulf between what the characters here aspire to and what they can actually afford.

Opens nationwide on 30 October

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
Arts and Entertainment
The episode saw the surprise return of shifty caravan owner Susan Wright, played by a Pauline Quirke (ITV)

Review: Broadchurch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo are teaming up for a Hurricane Katrina drama

film
Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore