Little more than a teen-targeted public service announcement for both avoiding relationships with mature men and staying in school, An Education plays like something fit for a high school heath education class. In 1960s England, 16-year-old Jenny (Carey Mulligan) spends her days and nights following demanding daddy’s (Alfred Molina) orders to keep grades up in order to get into Oxford. Those plans go awry, however, when she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), a dashing, sophisticated older chap who goes about wooing the girl – taking her on dates, introducing her to his jet-setting friends (Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike) – despite the fact that their age difference makes him, for all intents and purposes, a borderline-pervert. Jenny is so taken with David that she soon begins neglecting schoolwork and condescendingly blowing off her concerned teacher (Olivia Williams) and school headmistress (Emma Thompson). It’s an about-face that director Lone Scherfig (working from Nick Hornby’s adaptation of Lynn Barber’s memoir) casts in a positive light at least in part by depicting the former as a dowdy spinster and the latter as a curt anti-Semite. An Education revels in Jenny’s young love not because it truly approves of it but so that the predictable third act script-flipping – in which David turns out to be far from Prince Charming – can come as a great big preachy shock. Scherfig’s direction is silky but her material telegraphs early on its underlying function as a simplistic, pedantic cautionary tale. And though Mulligan ably expresses Jenny’s initial bliss and ultimate heartbreak, her performance is consistently more sturdy than surprising. All the while, a dimly grinning Sarsgaard proves infinitely less charming and irresistible than his character is supposed to be, and Molina chews scenery so ferociously that his scenes take on an unintended air of a made-for-TV movie.