Tag Archives: Carey Mulligan

An Education (2009)

At sixteen, Jenny (Carey Mulligan) already has life planned out for her. She is to study, ace her exams, and enter Oxford University. Under her father’s iron rule, she is allowed no distractions, her inclinations toward music and literature notwithstanding. But then she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), a much older man who dazzles her with his savoir faire. He takes her on a dizzying tour of the world’s pleasures, at the end of which Jenny begins to understand that life is much more complicated than it seems, and what having a real education is all about.

Strictly speaking, there is nothing new in this movie. An Education teaches an old lesson in an old way, rendering in visuals a parent’s common reprimand. It’s a very simple story—and maybe that’s why it succeeds. It possesses a genuine quality that makes it difficult for viewers to turn away. In it, we see how much of life is in shades of gray, and how challenging it is to make intelligent decisions when the situation isn’t black and white—how easy it is to make a mistake.

Jenny wanted a lot of things, but what she wanted the most was to be treated like an adult—something she is continually denied. Before intercourse, she tells David, “No baby talk… Just treat me like a grownup, okay?” However much of a child she was at the beginning, Jenny grows in the course of the film. But even at the end, when she says to her school headmistress, “I suppose you think I’m a ruined woman,” the headmistress only laughs and says, “You’re not a woman.”

The title refers to both Jenny’s schooling and her experience with David, from whom she learns much—in many ways. Rebelling against the rigors of academic learning, she argues, “It’s not enough to educate us anymore. You’ve got to tell us why you’re doing it.” Essentially, these are the questions the movie asks: What makes an education? How much do students really learn from studying; from real life? How important are both? We see the answers unfold with Jenny’s life, with the choices she makes and their resulting consequences. The film’s treatment of the subject, however, is not simply didactic. Instead we see things through the eyes of a young girl, whom we follow until—despite what the headmistress says—she eventually finds her way to becoming a woman.

‘But if we’re all going to die the moment we graduate, isn’t it what we do before that counts?’

Never Let Me Go (2010)

Based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed novel, the film stars Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield in this story of human love and tragedy. It follows them as they advance from being childhood friends, to odd rivals, to individuals sharing a common sorrow. Beautifully subdued and restrained, it makes minimal use of dialogue, instead relying mostly on atmosphere to evoke or express emotion.

I read the book first because I didn’t want to spoil it with the movie. But as I watched the film yesterday, the reverse happened. I wanted so badly to forget the novel, to pretend I didn’t know what would happen next, to let the film absorb me so entirely everything else would fade in comparison. But of course it did not. That’s too much to ask. So I noticed changes, deviations from the book. I paid attention to the selections and liberties the film took, as well as those it skipped over: Norfolk, the maps, Miss Geraldine. I knew choices had to be made, and I do not begrudge the movie, but I cannot help feeling that I did not enjoy it as much as I would have liked. I can only blame myself, of course, for having read the novel already, but I wish I didn’t have to choose. I wish I could have had both.

Unlike most book-based movies that only constitute offense, Never Let Me Go actually complements and deepens the reading experience. It adds new dimensions to the story that a book would have never made possible. The score, for example, I found appropriate and lovely and affecting all at the same time. In one scene it made the hairs on my arms stand on end, accompanying pure heartbreak. I cried at that point (just a little bit though, not as much as Maki). Both Angel and Ace have warned me about this before, but I still couldn’t help myself. Angel described it well: none of us could watch the last few minutes properly because of the tears blurring our vision. I must have replayed this one scene (my favorite, and I hazard to say everybody else’s) at least four times already, yet until now it does not fail to move me. I cannot imagine it ever will.

It had never occurred to me that our lives, so closely interwoven, could unravel with such speed. If I’d known, maybe I’d have kept tighter hold of them.

What I’m not sure about, is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save. We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.