Magazine article The Spectator

Innocence Betrayed

Magazine article The Spectator

Innocence Betrayed

Article excerpt

An Education

12A, Nationwid

An Education is based on the memoir by the journalist and interviewer Lynn Barber, with a screenplay by Nick Hornby, and, although the word from all the various festivals has been that it is wonderful, I know you will not believe it unless you hear it from me so here you are: it is wonderful. I am even hoping that now we've had the book and the film it isn't the end of Ms Barber spin-offs, and that there may be a dedicated theme park or, failing that, at least an action doll. I don't know what form it would take exactly, but would expect it to really kick butt, and probably smoke quite a lot.

The memoir, which first appeared in the literary magazine Granta, recounted Lynn's schoolgirl affair with a conman, an associate of Peter Rachman's, whom she very nearly married. Here, though, the names have been changed - to allow Hornby more freedom, I'm guessing - and so now it is Jenny (Carey Mulligan), who, in 1961, is an Oxford-bound 16-year-old schoolgirl living at home in Twickenham with her mother (Cara Seymour) and father (Alfred Molina) and who, one day, is picked up by a dashing older man in a red Bristol sports car, brrrm, brrrm. This is David (Peter Sarsgaard), who is suave and sophisticated and courts Jenny with vast bouquets of flowers - 'Must be ten bob's worth!' exclaims her father, astonished - and invitations to 'supper', something Jenny has heard of but never experienced. Her parents, whom Jenny rather looks down on, just as they rather look down on themselves, are as charmed by David as Jenny is. If Jenny's academic career isn't going to legitimise them in some way, then maybe this relationship will do it.

Molina plays dad as sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always in a cardigan.

This, though, is the kind of film that has to be all about its central performance and, although the word has been that Carey Mulligan is sensational, I know you won't believe it unless you hear it from me so: she is sensational. One minute she's a swotty sixth-former and the next she's a sex-ripe, audacious Audrey Hepburn with the most deliciously dark eyes and dimples, and yet both are Jenny. She is in every single scene, more or less, and I never tire of watching her. I could, in fact, watch her until the cows come home (which, today, isn't until quite late, as they have lacrosse and then extra Latin. They, too, are thinking Oxford). …

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