Follow TV Tropes


Film / Birthday Girl

Go To

Birthday Girl is a 2001 British film directed by Jez Butterworth, co-written by the director and Tom Butterworth, and starring Ben Chaplin, Nicole Kidman, Mathieu Kassovitz, and Vincent Cassel.

John (Chaplin) is a bank clerk from St. Albans who, upon concluding he will never meet the love of his life in the 'small island' of Britain, decides to send off for a mail-order bride from Russia. A young lady, Nadia (Kidman), duly arrives, but with one significant issue: she speaks no English. After a brief moral dilemma, John embarks on a relationship with his silent (at least, as far as English goes) partner. However, when Nadia's 'cousins', Yuri (Cassel) and Alexei (Kassovitz), arrive from Russia, he begins to realise he may have bitten off more then he can chew.

Birthday Girl contains examples of:

  • Badass Longcoat: Both Nadia and Alexei sport these, in red and black leather respectively. Alexei even jogs in his. John takes Alexei's as part of assuming his identity when fleeing to Russia at the end.
  • Bob from Accounting: John is referred to as 'Good Old John' by a colleague.
  • Chekhov's Skill: John's running.
  • The Con: The second act twist is that the Russian bride and her kidnappers are working together to scam her husband, and do it all the time.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Nadia is quite the chain-smoker (yet another thing John wasn't expecting) but is shown merrily puffing away in a tender moment as John helps her wind her yarn for the jumper she is knitting. She does also cough a lot to remind viewers that smoking is bad.
  • Gratuitous Russian: Entire scenes of it between Nadia, Yuri and Alexei - even though none of the actors, nor the writer/director spoke Russian before coming on board.
  • Language of Love: Between John and Nadia. An exploited trope. Nadia reveals that the marks fall in love with her faster when she pretends not to speak English.
  • Mail-Order Bride: Nadia is a Russian bride but actually a con artist.
  • Memento MacGuffin: Nadia's binoculars.
  • Porn Stash: John has a sizeable porn collection. However, upon discovering it, much to his surprise, Nadia is more keen to get involved with his bondage fantasies than chastise him for them.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Great. You split my fucking lip..." John's shocked face says it all.
  • The Reveal: Nadia, Yuri, and Alexei are con artists, tricking lonely men into falling for Nadia and then forcing them to steal to 'protect' her. Also, Nadia can speak English. And her name isn't Nadia.
  • Safe, Sane, and Consensual: John is into bondage and embarrassed by his fetish. To his surprise, Nadia is open-minded about it, and they get into a sexual relationship featuring bondage and knitting needles.
  • Translator Buddy: Since Yuri is the only one of the Russians to speak English, he translates for his friends.
  • Trust-Building Blunder: 'Trust and Letting Go', better known as the falling backwards exercise.
  • Wimp Fight: John and Nadia get into a slap-fight at one point. But then Nadia delivers a knee to the groin.