Educating Rita (1983) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • In Liverpool, twenty-seven-year-old hairdresser Rita (Dame Julie Walters) decides to complete her basic education before having children, as desired by her husband Denny (Malcolm Douglas). She joins a literature course in an open university and is tutored by the middle-aged Dr. Frank Bryant (Sir Michael Caine), an alcoholic and debauched professor from the upper-class, whose life has left him emotionally drained, without self-esteem. Frank lives with Julia (Jeananne Crowley), who's also a professor, and has a loveless marriage. Julia has a love affair with Dean Brian (Michael Williams). Rita's humor and determination to improve herself is contagious. She gives motivation to Frank, who helps prepare her for the exams to join the university, and be able to leave Denny. Will she succeed in the exams?

  • A young wife decides to complete her education and take her exams. She meets a professor who teaches her to value her own insights while still being able to beat the exams. The change in her status causes friction between her and her husband.

  • Bored with teaching undergraduates English literature, Dr. Frank Bryant (Sir Michael Caine) morosely reflects through a whiskey glass on his failed marriage and his attempt at becoming a poet. His world is turned upside down by the arrival of Rita (Dame Julie Walters), a hairdresser who has decided to find herself by taking an Open University course. Excited by her freewheeling and acute observations, and by Rita herself, Frank also feels a deep sadness as he watches her warm impulsive reactions being replaced by the sort of cold analytical approach he so much loathes in other students and colleagues.

  • Rita (Dame Julie Walters) crashes into Dr. Frank Bryant's (Sir Michael Caine's) life wanting an education, although she has no idea what it is that she's asking. Her brash sincerity earns the respect of the doctor who has previously resigned himself to a life of empty lectures and booze. Rita's character is a breath of fresh air for Bryant, and he begins to care about someone, or something, for that matter, for the first time since his wife left him. As each begins to wake up to life in his or her own way, the story comes to a close as an inspiring tale of self discovery and of the power choice that comes through education.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • An English working class girl wants to better herself by studying literature. Her assigned Open University professor however has grown so disillusioned with higher education and all it represents that he initially refuses to teach the vibrant and interesting woman at his door. Despite his protests, he finally accedes to her demands and the education of "Rita" begins. This education comes at considerable cost for Rita, who finds herself growing further and further away from the people she has been closest to as she moves closer and closer to a world that promises more than it can deliver. Starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters, who reprises her role from the stage production. Screenplay by Wiley Russell from his play. Directed by Lewis Gilbert. (PG)

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