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An Education



Intelligent period drama tackles mature teen topics.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 95 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film pits classroom education vs. real-world experiences -- but in the end, life demands a far more complex solution. Nevertheless, the importance of knowledge-seeking is made very clear, especially in the way it elevates the status of women.

Positive role models

Jenny is admirable in many ways, especially her thirst for knowledge and respect for book learning. Realistically for a teenager, she's also impulsive and drawn to what is mysterious and possibly dangerous -- perhaps not literally, but emotionally (she’ll also fib to get what she wants sometimes). Still, she's able to face her mistakes and herself when necessary. Her parents are both permissive and controlling, which contributes to the situation in which she finds herself -- but they clearly love her.


A couple argues loudly; two guys pilfer a map from a house and brusquely instruct their girlfriends to jump in the car.


A man in his 30s courts a 16-year-old virgin. In one scene, he asks to see her breasts, and she acquiesces -- there’s no nudity, but she's shown opening her blouse. Later, they have sex, though they're only shown after the fact. Some kissing and much flirting. There’s also a somewhat frank discussion about intercourse and a risqué joke about a banana.


“Bloody hell,” “idiot,” and “stupid.”


Car, cigarette, and perfume brands (like Chanel) that evoke luxury are mentioned or shown.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A 16-year-old smokes French cigarettes (Gauloises). Some social drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this smart 1960s-set drama written by popular author Nick Hornby explores a teenager's efforts to define her future, which includes making a mess of her well-laid plans -- most notably by becoming involved in a relationship with a sophisticated man nearly twice her age. Virginity, education, class -- they’re all up for discussion and questioning. These are mature themes, but older teens should get a lot out of the movie. There's some sexual content (implied nudity and intercourse, kissing, and some risque discussion), as well as some era-accurate social drinking and smoking.

What's the story?

Sixteen-year-old Jenny (Carey Mulligan) has fixed her sights on Oxford, and her striving dad (Alfred Molina) is happy to keep the pressure on until she gets there. Her teacher (Olivia White) believes she has what it takes, and Jenny does, too. But her plans are waylaid when she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), a thirtysomething mystery man who hangs out with a fast crowd that introduces Jenny to a heady world of jazz, high art, fashion, Paris, and passion. How can the world of books compete?

Is it any good?


There are quibbles aplenty with AN EDUCATION -- Sarsgaard’s wreck of an accent, to start, and a third act that attempts to wrap up too quickly to boot. But neither detracts from the period drama’s considerable heft. This is a seriously good film. Nick Hornby, who wrote the screenplay based on a memoir by Lynn Barber, keeps the feel modern despite the 1960s setting (which is gorgeously rendered) with dialogue shot through the heart with essential truths.

And with Mulligan reciting Hornby’s words, he can’t lose. Watching her navigate the perils of near-adulthood is like an epiphany, and while Sarsgaard’s accent is a throwaway, his acting isn’t -- few actors can make creepy seem so appealing. Director Lone Scherfig presents London and Paris with a knowing glow -- Jenny is a firefly, and her wings, as we can only expect, will get scalded, if not burned. And yet we can’t stop watching.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays teen sexuality. How different do you think that depiction would be if the movie was set today, instead of in the '60s?

  • What is the movie saying about the value of education? Does book learning always trump real-life adventure, or is life not that simple?

  • What do you think of Jenny’s apparent change-of-heart about pursuingOxford? Why does she seem ready to forgo what she's worked for topursue a fling with a much older man (who may, in fact, not be exactlywho she thinks he is)?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 9, 2009
DVD/Streaming release date:March 30, 2010
Cast:Alfred Molina, Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Rosamund Pike
Director:Lone Scherfig
Studio:Sony Pictures Classics
Run time:95 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:mature thematic material involving sexual content, and for smoking

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Teen, 14 years old Written byBestPicture1996 April 3, 2010

Well-done film

It deserved all of the Oscar nominations, and going into it I was a little worried about it content-wise, the premise wasn't very appealing. But it turned out to be very well-done and worth your time and cash!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Adult Written bywonder dove September 22, 2012

Wonderful film!!

I fell in love with this movie the first time I saw it. Carey Mulligan's character Jenny is so likeable and sweet, trying to do what she thinks is right at the ripe age of becoming a woman. So many challenges, peer pressure and lessons she goes through before discovering her destiny. There is some iffy content, Jenny is 16 and sleeps with a man in his mid-30s. No real sex scenes (just off-screen) and some talk about losing her virginity to a banana. She takes off her shirt for a man but there's no nudity. Some sweet kissing. Jenny and her friends smoke french cigarettes in one scene. There is some social drinking. No violence except for some loud arguing. Excellent film with a great role model and good messages!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byterra100 February 5, 2010

Only for adults and maybe older teens

This is a disturbing movie about teen choices and disillusionment. I don't want to give away the movie, so I won't say much here. It is definitely not subject matter for young teens. At least 17+ is what I would feel comfortable with. Lots of hard lessons learned in the movie. The acting is first rate. Carrie Mulligan is absolutely Oscar worthy in this movie -- very gifted actress.
What other families should know
Too much sex