Birthday Girl

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Birthday Girl
Birthday Girl (movie poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJez Butterworth
Produced by
  • Steve Butterworth
  • Diana Phillips
Written by
  • Tom Butterworth
  • Jez Butterworth
Music byStephen Warbeck
CinematographyOliver Stapleton
Edited byChristopher Tellefsen
Distributed by
  • Miramax Films (United States)
  • FilmFour Distributors (United Kingdom)
Release date
  • 6 September 2001 (2001-09-06) (Venice)
  • 1 February 2002 (2002-02-01) (United States)
  • 28 June 2002 (2002-06-28) (United Kingdom)
Running time
93 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States[1]
  • English
  • Russian
Budget$13 million[2]
Box office$16.2 million[3]

Birthday Girl is a 2001 erotic comedy thriller film directed by Jez Butterworth. The plot focuses on English bank clerk John Buckingham, who orders a Russian mail-order bride, Nadia. It becomes clear upon her arrival that Nadia cannot speak English, and early into her stay, two mysterious men come to the house claiming to be her cousin and cousin's friend. The film features Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Mathieu Kassovitz, and Vincent Cassel. English and Russian are spoken interchangeably in the film.


John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin), a lonely St Albans bank clerk, orders a mail-order bride Nadia (Nicole Kidman) from Russia on the Internet. John is uncomfortable and shy, but Nadia is sexually bold. Although Nadia cannot speak English and John cannot speak Russian, they soon bond. Later on, a man she introduces as her cousin Yuri (Mathieu Kassovitz) and his friend Alexei (Vincent Cassel) turn up to celebrate her birthday. Alexei soon shows that he has a temper. After a violent altercation, Alexei holds Nadia hostage and demands a ransom from John. John has grown to care for Nadia and is forced to steal from the bank where he has worked for ten years. After the ransom is paid, he realises that he has been the victim of an elaborate con. Nadia, Yuri, and Alexei are criminals, and Alexei is actually Nadia's boyfriend.

John learns that the trio have carried out the same scam on men from Switzerland, Greece and Germany. They take him prisoner, strip him down to his underpants, and tie him to a toilet in a motel. He eventually manages to free himself and quickly learns that Nadia has been left behind after Alexei discovered she was pregnant. John gets dressed and subsequently gets into a scrap with Nadia, who later reveals that she can indeed speak English and that her name is not Nadia.

John takes Nadia to turn her in to the police, hoping to clear his name as a wanted bank robber. Ultimately however, he sympathises with her and decides against it. He leaves her at the airport, where she is kidnapped by Alexei, who now wants Nadia to have the baby. John rescues her, tying Alexei to a chair. They make common cause against the two Russian men. Nadia informs John that her real name is Sophia. John, disguised as Alexei, leaves for Russia with Sophia.



The film grossed $16,171,098.[3]

It has a 58% approval on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 5.71/10, indicating a mixed critical reception.[4] Jason Solomon of The Observer praised the casting "Cassel, Kassovitz and Kidman are beautifully graceful against the backdrop of signs to Tring and Newbury." He continued "The comedy here is gentle, formed of linguistic misunderstandings and cultural clashes and Chaplin's constant efforts to be polite are rather charming. Kidman's exoticism, encapsulated by her peasant-chic wardrobe, is fresh air in St Albans."[5] The BBC reviewer gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, praised Chaplin's and Kidman's "infectious performances" and describe it as a "sparky" and "deviant topical comedy which is funny from start to finish."[6] CNN praised Kidman's "astounding range" and applauded the dialogue as "often sharp, scathingly witty, and displays a wry intelligence."[7]

The New York Times described the film as "competent" but decried the plot as too "insubstantial".[8]


  1. ^ "Birthday Girl (2002)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 18 July 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Birthday Girl (2002)". The Numbers. Retrieved 4 July 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b Birthday Girl (2002) Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ Birthday Girl (2002) Archived 17 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on 4 July 2009
  5. ^ A very British coup The Observer. 30 June 2002
  6. ^ Film review - Birthday Girl BBC. 20 June 2002
  7. ^ Review: 'Birthday Girl' another Kidman gift Archived 9 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine CNN. 31 January 2002
  8. ^ Birthday Girl (2001) FILM REVIEW; Shy Neat-Freak With Kinky Leanings? Sounds Like the Perfect Victim New York Times. 1 February 2002

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