Carey Mulligan plays a gifted 16-year-old Twickenham schoolgirl who is swept off her feet by smooth charmer Peter Sarsgaard.

Based on Lynn Barber’s memoir, this is an excellent drama – most rewarding and intelligent with a bittersweet edge.

Wise beyond her years, Mulligan is super as her character’s plans to get into Oxford University are derailed after Sarsgaard gives her a lift in a rainstorm. And Sarsgaard plays it just right as a seductive character you can’t quite make your mind up about. Is he going to betray the girl, or prove her salvation from austerity Britain? There’s plenty of bristling emotional and sexual tension locked in this apparently simple question.

Apart from the two principals, it’s Alfred Molina who shines, making the most of Nick Hornby’s expert script. Dominic Cooper and Emma Thompson hardly make an impression as Sarsgaard’s creepy chum and Mulligan’s frosty headmistress – but then the roles are one dimensional – but Olivia Williams and Rosamund Pike are much more alluring as Mulligan’s inspirational English teacher and Cooper’s air-headed girlfriend.