Birthday Girl

Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Vincent Cassel, Mathieu Kassovitz
Director: Jez Butterworth

Ben Chaplin plays John a single, middle-aged bank clerk, who lives in a small town in England. He doesn’t socialise much and so has been unable to meet the right woman. This leads him to ordering a bride from Russia through the Internet.

Nadia (Nicole Kidman) is the bride he ends up with. Despite requesting that she speak English and should not be a smoker, she turns out to be not exactly what he requested. After a few futile attempts to get rid of her, he is eventually won over by her feminine charms, which fulfil his needs. All seems well until her birthday when her cousin Yuri (Mathieu Kassovitz) and Yuri’s friend Alexei (Vincent Cassel) arrive unexpectedly from Russia. After a disagreement between Alexei and Nadia, John asks for them both to leave which results in Alexei taking Nadia hostage then asking for money in exchange for her release. Which forces John to rob his bank branch in order to get the money. After all this it turns out that Nadia was working with Alexei and Yuri all along in a scam to get something out of John. So now John has to either turn himself in or find another way out of his nightmare.

While it’s a fairly original story the direction by Jez Butterworth is only adequate. Ben Chaplin pulls off his role very well adding a touch of darkness to his character which makes him seem more realistic and the single frustrated man aspect is well executed. Nicole Kidman once again stands out as a lost, abused but surprisingly practical woman revealing both the strong and weaker sides to her character. The villain played by Vincent Cassel has just the right touch of self-justification and Mathieu Kassovitz gives a degree of sympathy to his role, which makes his character seem slightly naïve even though he is not. The film has some thrilling, dramatic and comical moments which make it quite interesting to watch but ultimately it is held together by the actors who give this slightly unusual love story more realism.

3 out of 6 stars

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