Circle of Friends (1995 film)
|Circle of Friends|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Pat O'Connor|
|Written by||Andrew Davies|
|Based on||Circle of Friends by
|Editing by||John Jympson|
|Distributed by||Savoy Pictures
Cineplex Odeon Films (Canada)
Rank Organisation (UK)
|Release dates||March 17, 1995|
|Running time||103 minutes|
|Box office||$23,397,365 (USA)
Set in 1950s Ireland, the film focuses on the experiences of Bernadette "Benny" Hogan and her two friends, Eve Malone and Nan Mahon. They are characterised early on in childhood, during their First Communion: Benny is the beloved and well-fed only child, Eve the orphan raised by nuns and Nan is poor but destined to be defined by her beauty. The three girls grow up in the small town of Knockglen. Skip to six years later: Nan has moved on to university a year earlier, and Benny and Eve are set to follow.
Eve's education is financed by the local wealthy Westward Protestant family, her father's employers until his death. The family has also willed to her a cottage on their property. Eve boards at a convent, while Benny must commute daily between home and Dublin, her parents being loath to let her go. They would prefer she marry the loathsome and creepy Sean Walsh, her father's faithful employee at his tailor shop.
Once in Dublin the two girls reconnect with a mature and sophisticated Nan who is quite aware of her bewitching effect on the opposite sex. Benny eventually falls in love with Jack Foley, a handsome rugby player and doctor's son, studying medicine and expected to follow in his father's footsteps, though he is not quite convinced that this is the career for him. The girls visit their home town, and Nan becomes involved with the much older Simon Westward. While Benny is able to resist a physical relationship, Nan is not and believes that Simon truly loves her. In the meantime, when Benny's father dies suddenly, she leaves university to help her mother run the business, and Sean Walsh attempts to woo her into marriage. The accounts of the prosperous Hogan business are missing significant funds, creating a mystery over double-entry bookkeeping or some other cause.
Eve's cottage, in an isolated sector of the Westward estate, serves as a party location for the three young women and their friends. Nan and Simon visit it secretly for their trysts. Nan becomes pregnant and Simon leaves her, offering to pay her off with a large cheque to get an abortion in England. A desperate Nan runs into a drunken Jack at a rugby team party and lures him into having sex with her; she later pretends that he is the one who got her pregnant. Jack does what he believes is the honourable thing and asks Nan to marry him. He tells Benny about the baby and the engagement and she is devastated. Eve is suspicious, finds a clue in the cottage fireplace, figures out the truth, confronts Nan at a party and her duplicity comes to light. That night, when Eve confronts Nan, Nan cuts her arm after falling into a glass cabinet at Eve's cottage. As he attends to her wounds, Jack realises that he has found his calling in medicine. Nan recognises that she cannot raise her child in a marriage based on lies and calls off her engagement with Jack.
Jack escorts Nan to the train station and she asks that he and Benny forgive her for her desperate actions. Nan heads to England to have her baby (or to have an abortion), and on to a new beginning. Curiosity gets the best of Benny, and she snoops around Sean's living area above the tailor shop. Sean finds Benny in his room and attempts to rape her. She fights him off, and in the process finds the money that he has embezzled from her family for the duration of his employment. She demands that he leave, and he does, declaring that she is destined to be a spinster for the rest of her life.
Jack finally goes to visit Benny to try to win her back. She is unwilling to let him off so easily, and tells him it will take quite a bit of time for him to gain her trust again. He demonstrates his patience and humility, devoting himself to his studies as well. Benny finally relents, accepting his love and proposal of marriage.
- Chris O'Donnell as Jack Foley
- Minnie Driver as Bernadette "Benny" Hogan
- Saffron Burrows as Nan Mahon
- Alan Cumming as Sean Walsh
- Colin Firth as Simon Westward
- Geraldine O'Rawe as Eve Malone
- Aidan Gillen as Aidan Lynch
- Mick Lally as Dan Hogan
- Britta Smith as Mrs. Hogan
- Ciarán Hinds as Professor Flynn
- Tony Doyle as Dr. Foley
- Jason Barry as Nasey Mahon
Differences from the novel
There are several differences between the film script and the novel it is based on, the most notable being that Benny and Jack do not reunite at the end of the book. Other key differences include:
- In the novel only Benny and Eve are childhood friends; they do not meet Nan until Benny's first day of university.
- Several major characters from the novel do not appear in the film, notably Mother Francis (the Mother Superior who raises Eve as a daughter in the convent) and Kit Hegarty (Eve's landlady, whose son's death brings the principle characters together).
- Jack's switch from law to medicine does not happen in the novel.
- Sean Walsh remains in Knockglen and marries the owner of the local hotel in the novel, a plot not featured in the film.
- The Irish Filmography 1896-1996; Red Mountain Press; 1996. Page 71