Fans of the US TV sitcom 'Scrubs', as well as those who were taken by 2004's 'Garden State', will understandably be looking forward to another rare movie appearance by the undisputed star of both, Zach Braff.

Like the old proverb goes "what is seldom is wonderful", and Braff's performance is worth waiting for. It is also in keeping with his excellent career to date. 'The Last Kiss' further cements Braff's position as, if not the best, one of the most important actors of his generation.

It is also a rarity for a Hollywood production to deal with real and contemporary issues in such a raw and unapologetically honest manner. Few Tinseltown efforts can claim to be either as heartfelt or truly heartbreaking as this.

The film follows the fortunes of four life-long friends as they attempt to come to terms with turning 30 and all the anxiety, reflection and self-doubt that entails.

Michael (Braff) is expecting a baby with Jenna (Barrett), while resisting pressure to marry her. Chris (Affleck) has already bitten the bullet and married Lisa (Smith). However, he has become disillusioned with the considerable strain their baby is placing on them, both individually and collectively. Izzy (Weston) is finding it difficult to cope with the break-up of his relationship with Arianna (Shelton), as well as the ill-health of his father. Kenny (Olsen), meanwhile, is a happy-go-lucky bartender content with casual, but regular, sexual encounters.

What director Tony Goldwyn oversees here is a harrowing look at modern-day relationships. However, it does not apply solely to youth in that respect. Jenna's parents, Anna (Danner) and Stephen (Wilkinson), also have their problems and Wilkinson is exceptional as the wise and stoic psychiatrist, whose distant nature alienates his ageing wife. 

Our main protagonist is Michael and we watch as the advances of young collegiate Kim (Bilson) prove difficult for the architect to resist. The ego-boost of such interest from a gorgeous temptress and the uncertainty created by the shadow of seismic events in his personal life combine to cause unprecedented confusion.

He is both a complex and endearing character, but his actions are sometimes as contemptible as they are frustrating. Indeed, all the characters are wonderfully developed. None of them are painted in black and white and thus are very easy to identify with. However, it is depressing to witness good people make decisions they know deep down themselves to be wrong and that alone renders 'The Last Kiss' painful, at times, to endure.

Like in 'Garden State', Braff had a major hand is selecting the soundtrack, and it shows, with Snow Patrol, Coldplay and Imogen Heap among the artists featured.

Goldwyn is on the record as saying he believes his movie is a comic drama. It is certainly dramatic, but to claim it is "really funny" is incorrect. Academy award-winning screenplay writer Paul Haggis ('Crash' and 'Million Dollar Baby') has sprayed a fine veneer of wit across this work, but it is far too serious to be considered an inhabitant of that genre.

In fact, this adaptation of the 2001 Italian film 'L'Ultimo Bacio' hurts so much that it practically bleeds from the screen. Any antidepressants on your person may not make it home with you, but the feeling that you have witnessed something quite profound should.

"Relationships either work or they don't." It is an assertion we should all take on board.

Séamus Leonard