It is 1961 in London, England, and 16-year-old Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is moody and bored with her life at school. She loves all things French and sings along to a recording of Juliette Greco. It seems to her that life is passing her by, and it doesn't help that her domineering and very conservative father, Jack (Alfred Molina) has been pressuring her to excel in her grades so she can enter Oxford University. Jenny does have Graham (Matthew Beard), a sweet young boy who is very infatuated with her, but she dreams of someone more dashing, intriguing and adventuresome.
Then David (Peter Sarsgaard) rolls into her life in a flashy car and wearing an expensive suit. He is a thirtysomething graduate of what he calls "the university of life." David wants to introduce her to his world of multiple pleasures classical music concerts, exquisite restaurants, and art auctions. They are joined by his business partner Danny (Dominic Cooper) and his gorgeous girlfriend Helen (Rosamund Pike).
Jenny is immensely impressed with the smooth-talking and charming David, who is able to gain her father's permission for her to accompany him on a weekend trip to Oxford to meet with C. S. Lewis. Even more dazzling is when he convinces her parents to allow her to travel to Paris for her 17th Birthday. David assures them that his "Aunt Helen" can serve again as a chaperone. Jenny has a gift in mind for herself: losing her virginity. Although she discovers some unsavory things about David's work, she figures that he is still more fun than anyone else she knows.
Back at school, word gets out about her trip and sexual experience: headmistress (Emma Thompson) finds it abhorrent, and her English teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams) is very disappointed that she has changed the course of her life by her choices.
An Education is directed by Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig (Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, Italian for Beginners) from a screenplay by Nick Hornby based on a memoir by journalist Lynn Barber. This alluring coming-of-age drama is a rich and multi-textured study of desire. On the positive side, it is through desire that we discover what animates and moves in us. Carey Mulligan's Jenny opens herself to new experiences and is educated in emotional literacy. On the negative side, we see that the mind filled with desires is never satisfied. This can cause endless suffering. Or as the Chinese say, "The one whose heart is not content is like a snake which tries to swallow an elephant."
Special features on the DVD include deleted scenes; a commentary with director Lone Scherfig and actors Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard; "The Making of An Education"; and "Walking the Red Carpet."