Carey Mulligan's performance
An Education gave Carey Mulligan her breakthrough role. She had been in a dozen or so films and series previously but this performance and the resultant accolades launched her internationally. She so deserved that BAFTA and those Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.
For the whole
That said, it is rare for an actor to get significant attention in a poor film. An Education is everything but poor. Director Lone Scherfig (Italian for Beginners, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself), scriptwriter Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) and the rest of the team get everything right, from the fully formed characters to the detail, accuracy and consistency of the settings.
If I were allowed only one word to describe An Education, I'd use 'bewitching'. David is bewitched by Jenny, Jenny is bewitched by life's possibilities, and we are bewitched by, well, everything.
Fall in love with Jenny
You can't not fall in love with Jenny while she's discovering the possibilities of life, jousting with her father, being educated on the ways of (certain) women by Helen and challenging the headmistress with her intelligence. Girlish naivety, embarrassment, curiosity and wonder can all play across her face in the space of a few seconds.
See Emma Thompson play the headmistress
She only has three sequences but my-oh-my the producers get their money's worth. However much she was paid.
Ponder the serious stuff
There are big themes in this film: feminism, post-war Britain and the arrival of the swinging '60s, hypocrisy, to name a few. There just seems like there isn't.
Learn how to attract women
Inventive pick-up lines and good conversational skills are more likely to attract the ladies than juvenile behaviour. And driving a nice car never hurts. And those lessons come just in the first 10 minutes.
Maintain your delusions
The scene in which David justifies the behaviour of he and his best friend is priceless – and a fine lesson in self-justification. (Peter Sarsgaard's performance has been a wee bit overshadowed by Mulligan's but he deserves a big gold star too.)
Because it's based on fact
Knowing a film is based on reality always gives it more punch. British journalist Lynn Barber writes beautifully here about her experience of witnessing her memoir turned into a film – and about memory. It's well worth a read but maybe hold off until 11.15pm this Saturday.
If you've already seen it, revel in the delicious familiarity
An Education is the film equivalent of quick sand: it sucks you in no matter how many times you might have seen it already or what you should be doing instead of relaxing in front of a movie.