An Education

October 9th 2009
  • Drama,
  • PG-13,
  • 95 min,
  • Sony Pictures Classics
  • Cast: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson, Cara Seymour, Matthew Beard, Sally Hawkins, Amanda Fairbank-Hynes, Ellie Kendrick, Kate Duchene, James Norton
  • Director: Lone Scherfig
  • Writer: Nick Hornby
  • Producers: Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey
  • Executive Producers: Douglas Hansen, Nick Hornby, Wendy Japhet, Jamie Laurenson, James D. Stern, David M. Thompson
  • Art Direction: Ben Smith
  • Casting: Lucy Bevan
  • Costume Design: Odile Dicks-Mireaux
  • D.O.P.: John de Borman
  • Editor: Barney Pilling
  • Makeup: Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou
  • Music: Paul Englishby
  • Production Design: Andrew McAlpine
  • Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson


It's 1961 and attractive, bright 16-year-old schoolgirl, Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is poised on the brink of womanhood, dreaming of a rarefied, Gauloise-scented existence as she sings along to Juliette Greco in her Twickenham bedroom. Stifled by the tedium of adolescent routine, Jenny can't wait for adult life to begin. Meanwhile, she's a diligent student, excelling in every subject except the Latin that her father is convinced will land her the place she dreams of at Oxford University.

One rainy day, her suburban life is upended by the arrival of an unsuitable suitor, 30-ish David (Peter Sarsgaard). Urbane and witty, David instantly unseats Jenny's stammering schoolboy admirer, Graham (Matthew Beard). To her frank amazement, he even manages to charm her conservative parents Jack (Alfred Molina) and Marjorie (Cara Seymour), and effortlessly overcomes any instinctive objections to their daughter's older, Jewish suitor.

Very quickly, David introduces Jenny to a glittering new world of classical concerts and late-night suppers with his attractive friend and business partner, Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Danny's girlfriend, the beautiful but vacuous Helen (Rosamund Pike). David replaces Jenny's traditional education with his own version, picking her up from school in his Bristol roadster and whisking her off to art auctions and smoky clubs.

Under the pretext of an introduction to C.S. Lewis, David arranges to take Jenny on a weekend jaunt to Oxford with Danny and Helen. Later, using an ingenious mixture of flattery and fibbery, he persuades her parents to allow him to take their only daughter to Paris for her 17th birthday. David suggests that his "Aunt Helen" will once again act as a chaperone. Jack and Marjorie do not know that Jenny has chosen the date and place to lose her virginity.

Paris is all that Jenny imagined it would be, sex with David somewhat less so. On her return to Twickenham, Jenny's school friends are thrilled with her newfound sophistication but her headmistress (Emma Thompson) is scandalised and her English teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams) is deeply disappointed that her prize pupil seems determined to throw away her evident gifts and certain chance of higher education.

Just as the family's long-held dream of getting their brilliant daughter into Oxford seems within reach, Jenny is tempted by another kind of life. Will David be the making of Jenny or her undoing?

Basic Information

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Filming Locations: London, UK; Paris, France
  • MPAA Warning: Mature thematic material involving sexual content, and for smoking
  • Production Companies: BBC Films, Endgame Entertainment, Finola Dwyer Productions, Wildgaze Films
  • Production Schedule: March 2008 - April 2008

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Made Variety's 2007 list of best unproduced British screenplays.

Director Lone Scherfig says she experimented with giving the actors options during scenes. For instance, she told Peter Sarsgaard that if he felt like it he could start a conversation with an extra playing a doorman in one scene despite there not being any written dialogue.

Carey Mulligan mentioned in an interview at the Sundance Film Festival that some of the most enjoyable moments of filming where when there were actors who only came in for a day or so, like Sally Hawkins and Emma Thompson, and she particularly enjoyed the four scenes she shot with the latter, whom she described as being "amazing", and called her acting "brilliant".

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Worldwide Release Dates

  • 8 October 2009: New Zealand
  • 22 October 2009: Australia, Israel
  • 30 October 2009: UK
  • 11 February 2010 : Netherlands
  • 18 February 2010 : Germany
  • 16 April 2010 : Norway