“An Education” – Every girl needs one

Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard in an "An Education"An Education is a carefully-crafted film about a young woman’s first seduction. The film was based on British journalist Lynn Barber’s real-life coming of age memoir. It is also a disquieting and seductive Lolita tale.

As the story unfolds one watches as a beautiful and intelligent teenage girl is caught in a web of seduction woven by a con man twice her age. Jenny, played by the incandescent Carey Mulligan, trapped in the dreary, respectable suburb of Trickham. A bright girl she is cramming for admission to Oxford as she plays French love songs and dreams of Paris
An Education is a complex film and at times disturbing to watch. It shows a bright young woman on the brink of womanhood in an era when women were receiving mixed messages. During the war women did all sorts of jobs, from driving ambulances to toiling in factories and working on important intelligence operations. After the war, many meekly headed back to the hearth and home.
Jenny’s father is conventional and status-seeking, but he also urges his daughter to work towards Oxford and academic achievement as way of bettering her life. One of her teachers gives her similar encouragement. The year the film takes place is 1960, right before London becomes the epicenter of the “youth quake” and a new social order.
Jenny’s seducer, David Goldman, a suave con man brilliantly portrayed by Peter Sarsgaard, knows only too well how to impress and beguile her naive, social-climbing father. Jenny looks on, embarrassed and amused, as he flirts with her usually cowed middle-aged mother and chats up her father about art, culture and Oxford. She can hardly believe it as her father waves them on their way.
When Jenny discovers that David is a rogue and a thief, she remains enraptured with the life he is offering. She has been well and truly seduced, swept away by a taste of life she had been able only to imagine. Even the disappointment of her first sexual encounter does not dim her enthusiasm for the posh life she envisions.
A school girl plays with fireThis is a beautiful, brilliantly acted film. The story is compelling and timeless. There is an element of the irresistible in Jenny’s seduction. Most intelligent young women long for art, culture, romance and an  older sophisticated lover to show them the world.
Jenny’s affair with David almost causes her to forfeit her future. Actually, it might have cost her a good deal more than her admission to university had she become pregnant, gotten involved in his criminal activities, caught an STD – or a combination of any or all of the above. Sadly, these things happen to bright young girls all the time. I’ve heard many versions of these tales, albeit, not quite as fraught with drama or style. If only young girls would learn to value themselves more and not toss themselves away on unworthy men. If only bright young things would have more faith that romance and glamour will come in time. How much better to wait a few years and have a glamorous romance with an older man –all of 25!
Some say it’s wrong for young girls to long for a prince. I think it’s inevitable. We just have to make girls smarter about picking them. Jenny’s teacher, who helps her get into Oxford, tells her "Jenny, you’re pretty and you’re clever. You can do anything. Your boyfriend, does he like pretty and clever?"  That’s what we need to teach young women: A true prince loves you because you can do anything.