Directed by John McKay starring Andie MacDowell, Imelda Staunton, Anna Chancellor and Kenny Doughty.

Ads aside, it's difficult to remember just what films Andie MacDowell has done since 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. But the sweet and smart drama of 'Crush' should bring her right back into people's minds and signals an actress who is comfortable with taking on the older roles.

In the heart of Middle England, three fortysomething women friends meet every week. Calling themselves 'The Sad F*ckers Club' (the film's original title), they hit the chocolate, booze and nearly each other as they pour over the finer details of their love lives - or lack of them. Molly (Staunton) is the doctor who has taken numerous trips up the aisle with other medics, Janine (Chancellor) the police detective who is clueless when it comes to Mr Right and Kate (MacDowell) is the prim and proper headmistress who seems to have marked down any hopes of happiness well away. It's a cosy, safe world, but when Kate meets former pupil Jed (Doughty), their romance threatens to pull the friendship apart.

While it would be easy to give 'Crush' the new title of 'Two Weddings and a Funeral', it's a far more thoughtful film than any slice of Hugh Grant whimsy and deserves much credit for examining wants, needs and jealousy on the other side of 40. Of course, for anyone sitting watching it without an in or significant other, it's hard to believe that Andie MacDowell has trouble pulling, but that gripe aside, she does well as the woman torn between friends and a future.

McKay, who also wrote the script, captures the chemistry and ups and downs of the friends with Chancellor in great form as the bully who's determined that no one will forget that she's been hitched three times. The director also does a good job of balancing the laughs and tears and while some gags stand smugly in 'wacky English territory', it's far funnier than some movies trading under false pretences as comedies.

Some men might feel they should be allowed bring a camp bed along to the cinema for agreeing to see 'Crush', but its way above US chick flick dross and suggests that someone in Hollywood is already wondering if MacDowell would be keen on a remake.

Harry Guerin