Jenny is 16, going on 17. But unlike Liesl, the milquetoast maiden in The Sound of Music, Jenny is one of those wry, dauntingly eloquent sixth-form English girls who seem to have emerged from the womb jaded by life. It’s this projected worldliness, as much as Jenny’s gamine prettiness, that attracts the attention of David (Peter Sarsgaard), an older suitor of sketchy background and considerable charm. Mulligan, 21 at the time of An Education’s filming, gets Jenny just right: one minute she’s a seen-it-all old pro who issues a cutting appraisal of her teacher; the next she’s a moony naïf who’s surrendered her senses to romance. Scherfig, the movie’s Danish director, has come a long way from the austere Dogme 95 principles of her breakthrough film, Italian for Beginners (2000). It’s Britain just before the Beatles, and she positively nails it: the bright, costumey colors of David’s louche café world and the pale, flecked wallpaper that imprisons Jenny’s dowdy parents.
(Thanks to Hilary for the tip!)