Birthday Girl (2001) - Synopsis

Birthday Girl (2001) - synopsis imageAt a London airport, shy bank clerk John (Ben Chaplin) watches passengers arriving from an Aeroflot flight. He’s waiting for his Russian mail-order bride. The last passenger leaves. Disappointed, he turns to see a tall, thin, gangly woman in a long red coat. She has scruffy black hair, red-black rings around her eyes, and looks apprehensive, tired, and worn. This is Nadia (Nicole Kidman). As he drives her home, John discovers she can’t speak English, but that she does smoke. Repeatedly, he calls the agency that arranged the marriage, leaving messages that a mistake has been made. However, although Nadia doesn’t know any English, John soon discovers that she knows all about sex. He changes his mind about sending her back.

The opening of director Jez Butterworth’s Birthday Girl (2001) is amusing and raunchy. But the film (written by the director and his brother, Tom) takes off in another direction when, on Nadia’s birthday, two boisterous Russians (exuberantly played by Vincent Cassel and Matthieu Kassovitz) arrive and take over John’s home. The clever, twisting narrative that follows is, by turns, surprising, funny, and thrilling. Ben Chaplin’s thoughtful performance counterbalances Nicole Kidman’s troubled volatile heroine, who is not who she seems to be.