Picks and Pans Review: Circle of Friends

updated 03/20/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/20/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

Chris O'Donnell, Minnie Driver, Geraldine O'Rawe, Saffron Burrows

Charm is given a very good name in this adaptation of Maeve Binchy's winsome coming-of-age novel set in 1950s Ireland.

Driver and O'Rawe, ribbons of college colors draped proudly around their necks, leave their provincial hometown to attend a university in Dublin. There they reestablish ties with grade-school classmate Burrows, who introduces them to O'Donnell, a handsome premed student and star of the rugby team. The slightly overweight, plainspoken Driver is immediately smitten but fears she doesn't stand a chance next to slender, beautiful Burrows. O'Donnell, it turns out, is attracted to Driver's frankness—"you're solid," he tells her—and anyway, the conniving Burrows isn't interested in college boys.

Circle of Friends cuts hilariously between anthropology lectures about sexually permissive cultures and scenes of the three young women trying to decide just how far they can—and want—to go with their beaux in a still rigidly Catholic society. Burrow's cruel, self-centered decision in this regard changes both the course of Driver and O'Donnell's romance and the friendships in the circle. Circle of Friends, which so easily could have become cloying, has a sweet, unforced ingenuousness. (PG)

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