A story about the lives, loves and betrayals of three Irish girls, Bennie Eve and Nan as they go to Trinity College, Dublin. Bennie soon seems to have found her ideal man in Jack, but events conspire to ruin their happiness.
The most unpredictable thing about this otherwise formula romance, based on the Maeve Binchy best-seller, is that while the frumpy, frizz-haired heroine Benny (Driver) has two suitors beating the front door down, her more cutesome colleagues Eve (Geraldine O’Rawe) and Nan (Burrows) clock up only one apiece. Strange, certainly, but in these days of uniformly curvaceous heroines it makes for an endearing twist.
Benny and Eve are two nice smalltown Catholic girls in 50s Ireland who head off to Dublin University and meet up with an old friend, the sophisticated Nan. She introduces them to college rugby star Jack Foley (O’Donnell with dodgy Irish accent) who bypasses the more shapely students for Benny, although her religious beliefs prevent her from surrendering her virginity to her frustrated beau.
Back home things aren’t so rosy: Benny not only clashes with her staid parents, but also has to escape the advances of sleazy local boy Sean (Alan Cumming). While she and Eve discuss the merits of giving in to their respective blokes, Nan is actually getting down to business with aristocratic older man Simon (Firth).
From here on in it’s strictly by the book: unwanted pregnancy, sudden death, and a series of deceptions which threaten Jack’s chances of ever getting a shag again, all appear as predicted. But despite its glaring obviousness, this is charming enough to captivate the viewer, producing unexpectedly strong female characters and faultless attention to detail. Director O’Connor effortlessly conjuring up the innocence of the era, introducing a streak of sexuality absent from Binchy’s sedate novel, and, overall, create an enchanting, if denture-rottingly sweet, yarn.
Reviewed by Caroline Westbrook