Liberal Arts: A Detailed Introduction



“Liberal Arts” is a 2012 American comedy-drama film written, directed, and starring Josh Radnor. The movie delves into themes of age, nostalgia, academia, and the complexities of relationships.

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The story revolves around 35-year-old Jesse, played by Josh Radnor, who returns to his alma mater in Ohio for a professor’s retirement party. During his visit, he meets Zibby, a 19-year-old college student portrayed by Elizabeth Olsen. Despite the significant age difference, the two form a unique bond, leading to a romantic relationship. The film explores the challenges and introspections that arise from their connection, set against the backdrop of a college setting.


  • Josh Radnor as Jesse Fisher: A 35-year-old college admissions officer from New York City who finds himself reminiscing about his college days.
  • Elizabeth Olsen as Zibby: A 19-year-old college student who becomes romantically involved with Jesse.
  • Richard Jenkins: A retiring professor and mentor to Jesse.
  • Allison Janney: A literature professor.
  • Zac Efron: A brief but memorable role as a free-spirited student.


“Liberal Arts” premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in January 2012. The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics. While some praised the performances and the exploration of academic nostalgia, others felt the narrative was somewhat predictable.


The film touches upon several themes, including:

  • Age and Maturity: The significant age gap between Jesse and Zibby serves as a focal point, raising questions about maturity, life stages, and what it means to “grow up.”
  • Nostalgia: Jesse’s return to his college evokes feelings of nostalgia, making him question whether his best days are behind him.
  • Academic Life: The college setting provides a backdrop for discussions on literature, music, and philosophy, reflecting the intellectual and emotional growth that occurs during one’s college years.


“Liberal Arts” is a thoughtful exploration of relationships, age differences, and the nostalgia associated with one’s formative years in college. Through its characters and setting, the film offers a poignant look at the challenges of adulthood and the memories that shape our lives.

For more detailed information, you can visit the Wikipedia page dedicated to “Liberal Arts.”

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