An Education 2009 Based on a memoir by Lynn Barber. Directed by Lone Scherfig. A coming-of-age film. 1961. Jenny Mellor (Carey Mulligan) is a bright 16-year-old schoolgirl who aspires to culture and opportunity beyond her small British town and to get out from under the thumb of her conservative father, Jack (Alfred Molina). One day, walking home in the rain with her cello, she’s offered a ride by attractive, older David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard). They talk about music. The next day he leaves flowers, then invites the girl to a concert. He charms her parents, convincing them he’ll help Jennie get into Oxford.
In fact, David is a successful con man. Jennie becomes the fourth in a sophisticated, hedonistic quartet including Danny (Dominic Cooper) and his girlfriend ,Helen (Rosamund Pike). Her new beau takes her for a romantic Paris sojourn and proposes. Jennie quits school and gives up Oxford dreams only to discover David is already married. Things get messy before they straighten out. The girl has learned quite a bit. Well done. With Cara Seymour, Emma Thompson. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Never Let Me Go 2010 Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. A romantic, dystopian tragedy. Directed by Mark Romaneck. The film is narrated by 28 year-old Kathy (Carey Mulligan) beginning with her time at boarding school with best friends Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley). The trio learns their fate is to be organ donors meant to “complete,” i.e. die in early adulthood – so that others may live. As teenagers, they meet peers who turn out to be clones and also discover there’s possibility of “deferral” -temporary reprieve from organ donation for those who are in love and can prove it.
Tommy and Ruth become lovers. Jealous, Kathy leaves to become a carer, comforting those about to die. Tommy and Ruth break up. Ten years pass. Both Ruth and Tommy have been harvested and are weak but alive. She admits she never loved him. Kathy and Tommy begin a relationship. Is the deferral real? Can they secure it? Dark. Andrew Garfield believes the story of Never Let Me Go is about humans, and exploring “what it is to have a soul, and how you prove what a soul is.” With Charlotte Rampling and Sally Hawkins. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Shame 2011 Directed by Steve McQueen. This is called a psychological erotic drama. I’d say it veers towards soft core porn. Not that the acting isn’t very fine. Good looking executive Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) is a serious sex addict. He picks up women, pays prostitutes, jacks off in the office men’s room, has a closet full of magazines, and watches considerable porn. Brandon avoids persistent calls from his only sibling, Sissie (Carey Mulligan), who then shows up at his door with nowhere else to stay. He doesn’t want her there, but allows it. There are several clues indicating the relationship might once have been incestuous.
Sissie has a singing job. (Mulligan can sing.) Having been begged, Brandon attends her opening with his boss David (James Badge Dale), a married man always on the make. (Brandon sheds quiet tears.) Sissie brings David home to bed at her brother’s. Concerned about business relations and agonized – jealous?, Brandon goes out for a long run. Shortly after, he spirals out courting violence – received. Sissie calls for emotional help. He doesn’t pick up. Full of naked sex scenes of all kinds. Rent on Netflix.
Sufragette 2015 Directed by Sarah Gavron. Few people are aware of the violence and sacrifice that resulted in the UK’s finally securing women’s voting rights. This fact-based drama is painful and illuminating. Married laundry workers in their mid-twenties, Violet Miller (Anne Marie Duff), and her friend Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), get involved in the grassroots suffragette movement. When he finds out, Violet’s husband beats and threatens her. Maud is successively stigmatized (by peers), fired, thrown out of her home, and arrested. In prison, she meets Emily Davison (Natalie Press), confidante of movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep in a cameo).
Increasingly radicalized, the young everywoman begins to participate in violent demonstrations. Emily’s extreme action at The Derby Stakes finally brings international attention to the cause. When realistic domestic violence scenes were cut, there were demonstrations against the film. In today’s environment, they might’ve been left. “Women over 30 in the UK were given the right to vote in 1918, rights over their own children in 1925, and the same voting rights as men in 1928.” The U.S. ratified women’s voting in 1919. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Promising Young Woman 2020 Directed by Emerald Fennell. Terrific film. Well written, well acted, well directed. Seven years ago, in medical school, Cassie Thomas’ (Carey Mulligan) lifelong best friend was gang raped when fall-down drunk at a party. Both women dropped out of school. The victim eventually committed suicide. Cassie had a breakdown, moved back in with her mostly understanding parents (Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge), and went to work for Gail (Laverne Cox) at an undemanding coffee bar.
Her parents are unaware that every weekend, Cassie goes to a bar/club, acts completely soused, and lets a different man take her home to try to take advantage. She doesn’t let them.
One day Ryan Cooper (Bo Burnham), a former fellow student now a doctor, chances into the coffee bar and asks her out. She’s reticent but has a good time. On the second date, he mentions several mutual friends from med school and that Al (Chris Lowell) is getting married. Cassie freezes and we know he’s the guy. She systematically tracks down and teaches painful, Machiavellian lessons to everyone who swept allegations under the rug. The last, of course, is Al. A price is paid. Revenge occurs in spades. Rent on Amazon Prime.