Educating Rita (1983) is a film about Rita, a hairdresser who wants to ‘discover herself’ by studying literature. It turns out that Rita’s journey of self-discovery also leads her alcoholic tutor Dr. Bryant on a journey of his own.
Rita has barely had any schooling and has never written an examination in her life. However, unlike her customers who expect a makeover in an hour’s time, Rita wants to gradually evolve from within. This inner awakening is her priority over her husband’s expectation of a child from her. Thus, Rita approaches Dr. Bryant, a former poet and a dispirited teacher, to privately tutor her.
During her education, Rita tries to understand literature, but cannot think the way the other people do. Her insights are wonderful, but unconventional and objectionable. However, this does not dishearten her. During vacation, Dr. Bryant goes on holiday, arranging for a temporary school for Rita. It is there, that her intellectual transformation occurs. When she returns home, Dr. Bryant meets a much more confident and knowledgeable Rita. Seeing this change in Rita makes him feel inadequate. Rita now turns into Dr. Bryant’s teacher, helping him resolve his inner demons.
This film is a powerful reminder that we must endlessly pursue anything we are passionate about. Factors like age, family pressure or social background need not stop one from pursuing one’s goals. More importantly, Educating Rita shows us that sometimes, students can be the best teachers. Packed with humour, this film is a must-watch for its beautiful message and for a remarkable performance by Julie Walters (Rita).
Educating Rita won the BAFTA for Best Film, Best Actor and Best Actress. The lead actors also won the Golden Globe awards that year.