Maeve Binchy's novel, adapted by Andrew Davies, whisks us back to rural Ireland, 1957, for a rites-of-passage tale - with the Roman Catholic Church lurking as usual in the wings. Benny (Driver) and her Knockglen chums go to college in Dublin, where she's enraptured by rugby player Jack Foley (O'Donnell, creditable, despite the knitwear) and is dithering about just how fully to give herself when the plot intervenes. Courtesy of father's fatal heart attack, Benny's landed back home and faced with the unwelcome advances of repellent-but-persistent Sean, the prospective shop-owner her parents have long wanted her to marry. The fizzing dialogue gets all the little details right, but the plot's nothing new (cue unwanted pregnancy and Firth's stuffy Anglophile Protestant) and the lingering shots of hibernian greenery aim straight for mid-Atlantic bland-out. While Cumming's turn as the oleaginous Sean offers bravura overstatement, it hardly belongs in the same picture as Minnie Driver's fresh, immensely appealing Benny, one of those rare feature debuts whose palpable inner fire transcends the workaday material.
Circle of Friends
Cast and crew