An Education is a beautiful character-driven film, sharp, well-written, with very good acting all around. Carey Mulligan is the star of it all, as she gives a fantastic breakthrough performance.
Carey plays Jenny, a 1960s smart 16 year old dedicated to her studies and with a big dream of going to Oxford. But her convictions are challenged when she meets David, a charming richer man who introduces her to love, fun and society. Jenny’s dilemma is solved at the end of the film, but what’s more important is her emotional journey and Carey does a splendid job at making it all seem convincing and adequate.
I always got the feeling that Carey totally understands Jenny. We can imagine that’s not so hard to do, but it rarely is so dead on that you totally forget about the actress that IS acting [another great example this year: Gaby Sidibe]. I keep underlining this great achievement from Carey because it’s very important to me, for the performance to feel believable and more so relatable. Carey made Jenny very accessible and, as a big bonus point, also sweet, adorable, loveable.
This is also to the screenplay’s credit. The film is meant to be light, but the fact that it’s funny means even more opportunities for Carey to spin the performance. Carey understands good subtle comedy, so her witty lines are always delivered perfectly and with the right timing. Her girlie way of being is adorable and her funny giggle in the rain scene is a very effective idea.
It’s hard to pick scenes where she acts best because she’s so consistent all throughout the film. However, I’m not sure you can sustain a great performance without dramatic scenes. Again, Carey knows how far to go and never overplays the suffering emotions of Jenny. The final talk with David is heartbreaking, and so is the moment of solitude crying when her father expresses his regrets about everything. And let’s not forget the energetic scene she shares with Emma Thompson, when Jenny confronts the headmistress about the purpose of education. It’s such a difficult, wordy scene to play and Carey does it justice, to say the least.
When the film came up, many said a star is born. It’s hard to predict what’s gonna happen with her career and I doubt she’ll ever top this fabulous breakthrough performance, but Carey seems to have the versatility and character understanding to become the finest actress of her generation. Her performance as Jenny is so natural, believable, relatable and a great full achievement that I’m sure people will be talking about it many years from now, more than any other Oscar nominees of her category. My rating is obvious: .