In suburban England in 1961, Jenny (played by Carey Mulligan) is an intelligent and headstrong 16 year old schoolgirl. She lives a very sheltered life and is the only child of strict, conservative parents (by Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour). One day on her way home from school Jenny meets older man David (by Peter Sarsgaard), A relationship develops and Jenny spends more and more of her evenings and weekends with free and easy David, his friend Danny (by Dominic Cooper) and Danny’s girlfriend, Helen (by Rosamund Pike). They enjoy a slice of the good life with regular parties, eating out and society occasions. Jenny is tantalised by this lifestyle and she gradually falls in love with David. During their relationship, David manages to charm Jenny’s parents and convince them he is a good man with honourable intentions. Jenny has happy times for a while, but her grades and behaviour deteriorate, so she has several interactions with her predictably stern headmistress (by Emma Thompson) and she also seeks the counsel of her teacher Miss Stubbs (by Olivia Williams), who is a more steadying and sympathetic support. However, David, Danny and Helen are not particularly nice people and just as Jenny starts to get used to her grown-up lifestyle, things take on a new perspective which turns her world on its head.
In her first movie role, Carey Mulligan is excellent – although she does sometimes seem a little to mature in her thinking and behaviour, to be a girl of only sixteen during those times. Watching the family life depicted here, the behaviour and expectations of the parents is quite apalling by today’s standards, but I think (sadly) that it is right for those times. I enjoyed the drama and the way the conservative world is shown throughout the whole story. The ending of the film delivers the key theme that life experiences all count towards learning and even if you make mistakes, they sometimes turn into memories to be cherished.