An Education

  • Review Date: October 7, 2009
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 95 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Intelligent period drama tackles mature teen topics.
  • Review Date: October 7, 2009
  • 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.

Parents say

Kids say

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 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

This review of An Education was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 10 years old April 9, 2010

Good for older kids

I really enjoyed this movie, Cary Millingan's brake through performance was really good. This movie should not be watched by most kids [with a few exceptions] because there is a lot of drinking and smoking by both adults and teenagers but in does take place in England in the 1960s which smoking and drinking was a usual custom for most people. A good watch, with a great screenplay.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Teen, 14 years old Written bym1 April 4, 2010

Interesting With a Great Lesson

Apart from The Hurt Locker, this is the best movie of the year. The themes about the relationship are the only major things about this movie, but it should be fine for older middle schoolers. Deserving of its Oscar nominations, this is a MUST SEE, especially for Carey Mulligan's FANTASTIC performance.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Great messages
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


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