I had high expectations for this awards favorite before starting. Newcomer Carey Mulligan has been pulling in rave review after rave review, and has been nominated for every major award, so far (though Oscar noms haven't been released yet, she is a shoe-in). The supporting cast has received almost as much clamor, plus the major players have been nominated as "Best Cast Ensemble" at this year's Screen Actors Guild Awards. So, there's a lot of possibilities with this one. Either it's going to be a piece of overhyped British period piece garbage, or it's going to be splendid, worth every good word said about it.
Thankfully, for me, it was the latter. Mulligan is superb as Jenny, the young, innocent, but smart, teenage girl growing up in a 1960s London suburb. She's witty and book smart, and her parents are very encouraging of her future educational endeavors, including studying at Oxford. Jenny is on board with these plans as well. That is, until she meets the much older David (played fantastically by American actor Peter Sarsgaard). He's not only charming enough to win over Jenny, but he even gets her parents to allow her to go with him on weekend trips away. He's quick with his words, and knows how to use them. Everything is going great for Jenny, or so she thinks. Her studies start to be effected by her knew "hobby" and the world around her begins changing drastically. When she finds out some startling information about her dear David, her life crashes around her.
On top of Mulligan's and Sarsgaard's stellar performances, are the amazing supporting cast, including Alfred Molina as her father, Emma Thompson as the headmistress of the school, and another newcomer, Rosamund Pike, as one of David's close friends. The script is delightful, thanks to Nick Hornsby (About a Boy), and the direction is top notch. I now want to live in 1960s England. Too bad it's just a movie. Don't miss this gem. Definitely one of the greats of 2009.