What is the purpose of an education for a woman whose fate is almost certainly going to be that of wife and mother, housework, babies and tedium? Especially in 1961, the year in which this film is set. Jenny, (the wonderful Carey Mulligan who I last saw as Ada in Bleak House) is all set for Oxford when she meets the much older, sophisticated David who gives her a glimpse of a life of excitement and adventure, throwing all her beliefs - and in fact her entire life plan - into turmoil. If, Jenny reasons, her parents and teachers have failed to achieve a life she can regard as aspirational, and she is so joyful and intoxicated with David and his friends, why should she work so hard to pursue an Oxford career, why not drop out and live life to the full his way? As events unfold, things are perhaps not as clear cut as they seemed. Ultimately Jenny works out for herself why education is worth pursuing.
The 1961 setting and cast are delectable, with Alfred Molina as Jenny's bumbling father, easily persuaded by the suave Peter Sarsgaard as David, and Olivia Williams as the despairing teacher. Dominic Cooper is perfect as David's side-kick, one of those slimy men who live by their wits and always choose biddable, decorative women. The soundtrack is excellent especially Duffy's Smoke Without Fire. The audience left to the closing credits with her words ringing in their ears: "You're a Liar."