With her story inspired by the death of a close friend, writer Kay Mellor (TV's Band Of Gold) has crafted an old-fashioned tear-jerker. Which isn't to belittle her achievements; if only more Hollywood films cared about their characters so deeply and completely.
Tragi-comedies about incurable illness aren't easy to pull off, yet Girls' Night successfully avoids the obvious pitfall of mawkish sentimentality. Admittedly, the narrative arc rolls out a familiar series of events: the shock diagnosis; fluctuating feelings of disbelief, rage and despair; temporary respite; the deathbed scene; and the uplifting funeral oration. But Mellor, while showing the shattering impact that the illness has on both the sufferer and those who love her, also fires the tale up with plenty of the-show-must-go-on humour. As with the exceptional Shadowlands, the theme may be gloomy but the message is ultimately upbeat; to come to terms with death, we must first embrace life.
Girls' Night is certainly not without its flaws. Kris Kristofferson's turn as a Nevada version of Prince Charming feels underwritten and incomplete, and Nick Hurran's workmanlike direction wastes the Las Vegas locations. But ultimately what elevates this touching study of friendship are the performances by two of Britain's most talented actresses. Walters may not be breaking new ground in her role as a brassy working-class lass, yet who could be better for Jackie's mix of cocky bravado and human vulnerability? And Blethyn invests the self-effacing, totally selfless Dawn with an immense and poignant dignity.