What makes “An Education” a special film experience are the man-child charms of the sexual predator. This one-liner may categorically turn away some of you, but the writer, director, and actors have collaborated on a compelling turn with a common movie theme – the coming-of-age story. Deservedly, it is one of the most highly regarded movies of the year.
Actress, Carey Mulligan, has generated the most buzz about this little film, plus an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. This relatively new but busy young actress is being touted as having qualities akin to Audrey Hepburn's. Contemporary film could surely benefit from a rising star with such attributes.
Mulligan plays a most intelligent and attractive high school girl in 1960s England, before the sexual revolution started spinning. Indeed, she does center the story well as the one receiving the heightened education of the movie's title. Diligent at school and not really the rebellious type, she yearns for something more.
Playing a 30-something man who entraps the innocent but restless school girl, Peter Sarsgaard pulls off a character with facets that deflect easy pigeonholing. Though he retains a certain creepiness throughout the film, he, too, learns some things as this deft story unfolds.
Sarsgaard is a familiar and effective though not particularly famous presence in the movies. He keeps a tricky screenplay on a satisfying course of entertainment. Add to the balance the enabling tendencies of the supporting characters, especially the girl's parents. The Sarsgaard character delights in manipulating the parents as if it were a contributing satisfaction in promoting the “expansion of their girl's horizons.”
I can't help but put this digestibly edgy film in perspective by quoting an explanation of the film's PG-13 rating: “Mature thematic material involving sexual content, and for smoking.”
If you see only one film about a sexual predator this year, it should be “An Education.” It's actually quite a good story. And Carey Mulligan is definitely an actress to keep an eye on.