Bought love and lust in Russia

By Corinna Callsen

Wanna have something different? Maybe a smoothie made of romance and drama with a touch of weirdness? Then add a cliché or two, topped with surprise and a grin on the side? Then go see Birthday Girl and you’ll get a good mixture.

The characters are neither doctors nor lawyers. You’ll find no glamorous make-up and a simple set. Yet, you get all the romance and bizarre drama you could ask for. The unusual story grabs you and an ensemble of well-chosen actors and a smart central thread keeps the movie going.

The multi-faceted story changes from idyllic to brutal and eccentric. The story begins in the stereotypical town of Saint Albans, England, where bank clerk John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin), the definition of average, honest and inhibited, welcomes his mail order bride, Nadia (Nicole Kidman), from Russia. Looking forward to a peaceful life together in the picturesque surroundings, problems arise almost immediately when John realizes that Nadia answers yes to whatever he says.

The plot thickens and the story gets its surprising kick when Nadia’s cousin Yuri (Vincent Cassel) and his friend Alexei (Mathieu Kassovitz) arrive from Russia to celebrate her birthday. As Yuri and Alexei invade John’s life, the idyllic scenery changes slowly under the influence. Birthday Girl shows the green, sheep-filled English countryside the way we’ve imagined it, and the Russians are presented in much the same way-loud, drunk on vodka and always up for a fight.

The unusual set of events continues as the setting shifts from the meadows of Nowhereshire to a dim hotel room close to Heathrow airport. There, the movie ends predictably, although with a slight twist.

When you watch Birthday Girl, keep your eyes on Kidman. Not afraid to take on a challenge, her performance brings passion and erotic heat to the role of Nadia. Kinky, beaten and dishonest, Nadia is both believable and interesting. Supported by an engaging Ben Chaplin, the two main characters carry you through a movie which has its slight bumps, but still tells a compelling story that’s both different and bizarre.

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