A Small Circle of Friends (1980)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Period Film  |   Release Date - Mar 12, 1980 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 113 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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This lesser-known entry in the "campus life in the 1960's" subgenre is a modest but effective piece of work. Exra Sacks' screenplay uses a conventional romantic-triangle scenario to anchor its tale of the tumultuous 1960's but it doesn't feel like a cliché. In fact, it does a nice job of giving shape to the complex array of social concerns the film covers by giving them a human face. Indeed, the film's most effective moments are the ones that convey the emotion behind the social unrest: highlights include an uneasy scene where the male students watch the Vietnam "draft lottery" on t.v. as they hope not to be called and an unnerving scene where a jittery Brad Davis goes to visit a group of domestic terrorists at their hideout. Karen Allen and Jameson Parker give solid performances as the two leads who anchor the story but the film belongs to Davis, who gives an all-stops-out performance that conveys the dizzying passion and sense of possibility that defines the film's scenario. There is also noteworthy work in character roles from Harry Caesar as a school cook who grieves when his son is sent to Vietnam and John Friedrich as a young student who undergoes a metamorphosis from Eagle scout to revolutionary. Finally, Rob Cohen acquits himself nicely in the director's chair, getting earnest performances from his cast and making excellent use of real Harvard locations to give the film's events a convincing backdrop. His work further benefits from a stirring orchestral score by Jim Steinman that ably supports the film's romantic take on the travails of its protagonists. The end result doesn't break new ground for this type of drama but is also less pretentious and more entertaining than films of this type often are. In short, A Small Circle Of Friends is the one of the more viewer-friendly films of the post-1960's post-mortem variety.