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An Education is a British coming-of-age drama film based on an autobiographical memoir of the same title written by the British journalist Lynn Barber. The film was directed by Lone Scherfig, with screenplay written by Nick Hornby, and features an ensemble cast including Emma Thompson, Peter Sarsgaard, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, and Carey Mulligan in the lead role.

The film premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, gaining critical acclaim. The film was featured at the Telluride by the Sea Film Festival in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on September 19, 2009. The film was shown on October 9, 2009, at the Mill Valley Film Festival. It went into theatrical release in the U.S. on October 16 and in the UK on October 30.


Following a youth orchestra rehearsal, bright, beautiful school girl Jenny is given a lift home by a charming older man, David. The two strike up a relationship which includes David's business partner Danny and Danny's vapid mistress, Helen. David charms and coaxes Jenny's protective parents into allowing him to take her to concerts, jazz clubs, and even Parismarker.

Jenny finds out that David and Danny steal things from houses for sale. She also finds out that he makes money by moving black families into flats near elderly women who are afraid of them, so he can buy the flats cheap. On discovering this Jenny is horrified and threatens to leave the relationship, but in the end she finds her new life so enthralling that she looks past the darker side.

After seeing Jenny dance with Danny, David hastily proposes to Jenny. Her father agrees to the engagement and Jenny drops out of school without taking her A-levels. While searching for cigarettes in David's glove compartment, Jenny finds a stack of letters addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. David Goldman." She demands that he tell her parents that he is already married so she won't have to do it herself, but instead he drives off. Her old headmistress refuses to allow her to repeat her final year of school, so Jenny goes to the home of her favorite teacher, who helps her study and pass her A-levels. She is accepted to read English at Oxford, which had been her ambition before she met David.

The final scene shows her riding her bike on the streets of Oxford with a male student, presumably her new boyfriend. Jenny narrates in the background: "So, I went to read English books, and did my best to avoid the speccy, spotty fate that Helen had predicted for me. I probably looked as wide-eyed, fresh, and artless as any other student...But I wasn't. One of the boys I went out with, and they really were boys, once asked me to go to Paris with him. And I told him I'd love to, I was dying to see if I'd never been."

Alternate ending

In an alternate ending that takes place 18 months later after being accepted and while attending Oxford, Jenny sees the red Bristol with David at the wheel. He tries to apologize to her and explains that he is planning on divorcing his wife. Jenny, however, explains how much he almost cost her, including her future, and that she has a new life at Oxford now. She walks away with her new boyfriend and David stares longingly after them.




Nick Hornby created the screenplay based on an autobiographical essay by the British journalist Lynn Barber published in the literary magazine Granta. Barber's full memoir, An Education, was not published in book form until June 2009, when filming had already been completed. Hornby said that what appealed to him in the memoir was that "She's a suburban girl who's frightened that she's going to get cut out of everything good that happens in the city. That, to me, is a big story in popular culture. It's the story of pretty much every rock 'n' roll band." Although the screenplay involved Hornby writing about a young teenage girl, he did not feel it was more challenging than writing any other character: "I think the moment you're writing about somebody who's not exactly you, then the challenge is all equal. I was glad that everyone around me on this movie was a woman so that they could watch me carefully. But I don't remember anyone saying to me, 'That isn't how women think.'"


Although Jenny's family home and her school are supposed to be in the suburb of Twickenhammarker, Middlesexmarker, the residential scenes featured in the film were shot on location in the Gunnersburymarker area of Ealingmarker, West London as well as Mattock Lane in West Ealingmarker and The Japanese School in Acton which used to be a girls' school called Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls. The area is convincingly arranged to appear as it would look like in the 1960s, with the only noticeable exception being the 1990s period street lighting. Later on in the film, the scene in which Jenny encounters David Goldman's wife outside her suburban home appear to be shot in the Woodside Parkmarker area of North Londonmarker.


The film currently holds a 94% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 150 critics' reviews. On Metacritic it holds an 85 rating based on 34 reviews.

An Education won the Audience Choice award and the Cinematography award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Mulligan won a Hollywood Film Festival award for Best Hollywood Breakthrough Performance for a Female. It was selected Sight & Sound's film of the month.


  1. Sundance unveils competition lineup
  2. Telluride by the Sea
  3. An edited extract from the introduction to An Education: The Screenplay by Nick Hornby (Penguin)
  4. Christy Grosz Nick Hornby takes pen to screen with 'An Education' Los Angeles Times. September 13, 2009. Retrieved September 14, 2009.

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