Birthday Girl

This article is about the 2001 film. For the Haruki Murakami story, see Birthday Girl (short story).
Birthday Girl
Directed by Jez Butterworth
Produced by
  • Steve Butterworth
  • Diana Phillips
Written by
  • Tom Butterworth
  • Jez Butterworth
Music by Stephen Warbeck
Cinematography Oliver Stapleton
Distributed by Miramax Films (US)
Release dates
  • 1 February 2002 (2002-02-01) (US)
  • 28 June 2002 (2002-06-28) (UK & IRL)
  • 2 August 2002 (2002-08-02) (SA)
  • 8 August 2002 (2002-08-08) (AUS)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United Kingdom[1]
  • English
  • Russian
Budget $13 million[2]
Box office $16.2 million[3]

Birthday Girl is a 2001 British drama and crime 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. Though 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 and Germany, among others. 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 into 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% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating a neutral-positive 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 4 July 2016.
  2. "Birthday Girl (2002)". The Numbers. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  3. 1 2 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

External links

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