To live in London in the early 1960s was vastly different than the "swinging" London of the late 1960s. Feeling the effects of its dismal, non-glamourous times is Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a 16 going on 17 year old whose every waking moment is spent studying for the exams that will land her a position at the prestigious Oxford University. The only obstacle in her way is a less than perfect knack for Latin--and being seduced by a much older man named David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard) who happens upon her in the rain while driving and offers to give her a ride home.
Of course, David's gesture is not done simply out of kindness. After sending her flowers and running into her once more, he invites her to a concert of classical music, knowing that as an obligatory cellist, Jenny couldn't possibly resist. The brief glimpse Jenny gets of David's privileged lifestyle is undeniably intoxicating. So much so that when David and his friends, Danny (Dominic Cooper, who, by the way, should be much more famous with looks like that) and Helen (Rosamund Pike), invite her to go to an auction in the middle of the day, she decides it would be much more fun than going to school.
Presumably, all of this time spent with an older man would alarm most parents, but contrarily, Jenny's parents, Jack (Alfred Molina) and Majorie (Cara Seymour), are more charmed by David than Jenny herself. Graham (Matthew Beard), Jenny's would-be, age appropriate suitor is quickly ousted in favor of David, who convinces her parents to let him take her to Paris in honor of her seventeenth birthday. It is at this juncture that the script writing style of Nick Hornby becomes infinitely more plot driven than character driven, which is somewhat ironic considering Jenny explains to David that her English teacher is constantly reiterating that character is defined by what one does, stating, "Before I met you, I never did anything. I guess I was nobody. Sometimes I think this whole country is filled with nobodies." The whole world really.
Aside from the elegant costumes and worthwhile soundtrack (Juliette Greco, bitches), the primary component to marvel at is the masterfully structured screenplay Nick Hornby has put forth. It is no doubt because of his affinity to the character of Jenny. Hornby noted that after reading Lynn Barber's fictionalized account of the affair she had with an older man, “I felt that I understood Jenny’s life. That sense of being bored in a suburb of London and frightened that somehow the city is going to shut you out of its life … I know that very much.” And it shows.