A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
Talk to your kids 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)?
- In theaters: October 9, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: March 30, 2010
- Cast: Alfred Molina, Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Rosamund Pike
- Director: Lone Scherfig
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material involving sexual content, and for smoking
For kids who love dramas
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.