What could've been a standard coming of age for girls flick proves to be a slightly better than average affair thanks to some strong performances, picturesque locales, and a sweet heart at its quite contemporary centre. Predictable and emotionally manipulative, it nevertheless knows exactly which audience its aimed at and is tailor made for them to such a degree that one can't help but admire the quality job done here.
Covering decent real life issues including death, young love, growing up and the changing nature of friendship - the film covers a lot of bases that, despite their predictable wrap-ups, takes some pretty mature directions in its depictions of family difficulties and illness. One of its strengths is that by separating the four girls it allows four quite different stories to be followed and cut between.
As a result the pacing is kept pretty tight (its a full two hours yet never feels it) and the action can vary between the more light hearted fantasy plots of falling in love in exotic locations (Bledel & Lively) with serious stories of a girl trying to find a father's love (Ferrara) and another (Tamblyn) coming to terms with emotional devastation. All four girls (and the superb Jenna Boyd) are strong and seem tailor made to suit their storylines even if their supporting players (esp. the males of the piece) are relative letdowns.
The script is also never too cloyingly sentimental. As much as the storylines and characters go off in easy to follow directions, and scenes are inserted deliberately to tweak our emotions, the situations all follow believable lines of logic even if the various endings are happily contrived. Its a modest but solid little movie that may tread along a well-worn path but does it with an enjoyable flair.