Maeve Binchy’s novel of girlie friendship set in 1950s Ireland is nicely brought to the screen here by director Pat O’Connor, who also made the Charlize Theron/Keanu Reeves weepie Sweet November.
Minnie Driver, in one of her best performances, reportedly piled on thirty pounds to play young Benny, who experiences boys, love and betrayal for the first time when she leaves her little old-fashioned village for college in Dublin, along with pals Eve (Geraldine O’Rawe) and the snooty Nan (Saffron Burrows). Each girl experiences romantic entanglements – Benny falls for hunky rugby player Jack (O’Donnell), Nan has a secret affair with local landowner Simon (Colin Firth), while Eve has to fend off her amorous boyfriend Aidan (Aidan Gillen).
It’s a little treat of a film, thanks to lovely performances from the leads, especially Driver as the sensitive gal who doesn’t want her heart broken (‘You mustn’t mess me about. I know I may look like a rhinoceros, but I’ve got quite a thin skin really’) and Cumming as the slithery Sean, whom her parents want her to marry. (Parents should note that while sexual situations come up throughout the film, it’s all dealt with pretty nicely and discreetly – after all, these are good Catholic girls.)
Is Circle Of Friends suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...