The same year as the BBC's Pride and Prejudice
(1995) writer Andrew Davies and star Colin Firth were also hard at work on Circle of Friends
, an Irish romance brought to the big screen by director Pat O'Connor (Dancing at Lughnasa
). It's 1957 and three small-town friends Benny (Minnie Driver), Eve (Geraldine O'Rawe) and Nan (Saffron Burrows) arrive at university in Dublin, the scene set for an entertaining obstacle course along the path to true love. Jack, an excellent Chris O'Donnell, is the object of Benny's affections, and as the still unsure young woman beginning to find her way Driver gives an extremely engaging performance. Alan Cummings has a rather stereotyped role, which involves him in an attempted rape scene, one not only out-of-character with the rest of the film, but not even in the original novel. The transfer of 1990s mores onto 1950s Catholic Ireland jars a little towards the end, but whereas the cinema usually portrays Ireland as either a backdrop to "The Troubles", or--Angela's Ashes
-style--as a land of hard working-class struggle, it's appealing to see it taking a look at the adventures of decent, ordinary middle-class people. The plot never springs any serious surprises, but makes for beautifully photographed Sunday-night TV-style nostalgia. --Gary S. Dalkin
In 1957, Benny (Minnie Driver) and Eve (Geraldine O'Rawe) set off from their hometown to attend college in Dublin. There they meet Nan (Saffron Burrows), who introduces them to Jack (Chris O'Donnell), the college heart-throb rugby star. Jack and Benny begin a passionate relationship, but an impulsive decision by Nan eventually changes the course of the relationship for good.