Circle of Friends (1995 film)

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Circle of Friends
Circle of friends film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPat O'Connor
Written byAndrew Davies
Based onCircle of Friends by
Maeve Binchy
Music byMichael Kamen
CinematographyKenneth MacMillan
Edited byJohn Jympson
Distributed bySavoy Pictures
Cineplex Odeon Films (Canada)
Rank Organisation (UK)
Release date
17 March 1995
Running time
103 minutes
United Kingdom
United States
Budget$15 million
Box office$45 million

Circle of Friends is a 1995 film directed by Irish filmmaker Pat O'Connor, and based on the 1990 novel of the same name written by Maeve Binchy.

The movie was well received by critics and was a box office success.[1]


Set in 1950s Ireland, the film relates the experiences of Bernadette "Benny" Hogan and her friends: Eve Malone and Nan Mahon. They are characterised during their First Communion: Benny is the beloved and well-fed only child of a tailor with a shop, Eve is the orphan reared by nuns and Nan is destined to be defined by her beauty. They grow up in the small town of Knockglen. Eight years later, Nan has moved to Dublin, and Benny and Eve have graduated from convent school and are heading to Dublin and university.

Eve's education is financed by the local landowning Westward Protestant family, who employed her father before his death. She has also been granted one of their estate cottages. She boards at a Dublin convent, while Benny commutes between home and Dublin, her parents being loath to lose her. They wish her to marry the creepy Sean Walsh, her father's employee, to secure the business's future.

In Dublin, the two girls reconnect with a mature, sophisticated Nan who is aware of her beauty. Benny falls for Jack Foley, a handsome rugby player and doctor's son studying medicine, though he is not convinced of this career. After the College Ball, they begin a relationship, Eve dates Aidan, a friend of Jack's, and Nan becomes involved with the older Simon Westward, heir to the estate. While Benny resists sex with Jack, Nan does not with Simon, believing he truly loves her.

When Benny's father dies, she suspends studies to care for her devastated mother and run the family shop. Sean attempts to woo her. Benny notices funds are missing and suspects Sean is involved but lacks proof.

Eve's cottage serves as a party location for the women. Nan and Simon visit it secretly. Nan becomes pregnant and tells Simon, sure he will marry her but Simon says he must marry for money to maintain the family estate. He offers her money for an abortion in England. A desperate Nan seeks Aidan, but runs into Jack, who has not seen Benny since her father's funeral. She convinces him to take her to a party and lures him into sex, later pretending that he got her pregnant. Jack is honourable and offers marriage. He tells Benny and she is devastated. Eve suspects someone is using the cottage after finding a half-burned newspaper. The convent nuns have told her they have seen lights and chimney smoke. Nan suggests the cottage is haunted to conceal her secret meetings.

Eve throws another party, which a still devastated Benny attends. Nan, oblivious to the pain she has caused, convinces Jack they should attend, though he feels uneasy about it. Nan seeks out Eve, bringing her presents. An enraged Eve, having guessed Simon fathered Nan's baby, threatens to tell Jack the truth and comes towards Nan waving a bread knife. Nan falls into a glass door, severing an artery and so bleeding profusely. Jack comes to her aid. Benny, seeing them attending to Nan, leaves.

Jack tries to contact Benny but she refuses to answer. Though learning of Nan's deception, he escorts her to the station despite her protests that he has no responsibility. She asks for forgiveness and heads to England for her delivery (or an illegal abortion).

Curiosity over the fraud leads Benny to search Sean's living area. She finds pornographic pictures of fat women. Sean finds her there and attempts to sexually assault her. She fights him off, then finds the money he has embezzled. She demands he leave or she will call the Garda (police).

After Jack sees Nan off, he tries to win Benny back. He explains that aiding Nan made his hesitations over medicine disappear and that he loves her and never loved Nan. Benny tells him his actions have changed her and their relationship and they must take their time.

In a voiceover, Benny says Jack addressed his studies and pursued her, while she moved to Dublin to share a flat with Eve. A paper Benny writes causes a stir and starts her career as a writer. In time, she falls in love with Jack again. The final scene shows her taking Jack to Eve's cottage. As he follows her inside, Benny says "Bless me father, I have sinned," implying they have finally consummated their courtship.


Differences from the novel[edit]

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 principal 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.
  • Benny does not confront Sean alone in the novel, and there is no scene of attempted sexual assault.


Circle of Friends was positively received by critics, as the film holds a 78% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 36 reviews.


  1. ^ The Irish Filmography 1896–1996. Red Mountain Press. 1996. p. 71.

External links[edit]