I watched this movie on my flight to Frankfurt, and was very pleasantly surprised by it. In scope, it is a small movie, unlike many of the Oscar nominees for Best Picture. It is a cautionary tale mostly to parents. A true con artist gains the confidence of a 16 year old school girl, her parents, and the audience. We can see that he is lying to the girl and her parents, but just how badly he is lying is something that takes us all in. The chorus, the one who is filling us all in on the real score is Helen, the least savvy amongst us. She is a well-dressed pretty face, and what she lacks in education and guile, she makes up for in her kindness to Jenny, and therefore we are endeared to her, and everything she says comes to be true–and more.
But the part that is hard for parents to swallow is that the con artist has the parents completely on the line, and Jenny points this out–she is a young school girl taken in by an older man–an age old story. What is their excuse? Jane Austen had a thing or two to say on this point, and Jenny’s experience a decade later with her school mistress is not markedly different from the Britain at the time of Austen.