Sunday, August 19, 2012
BIRTHDAY Movie Review
Cast: Natalie Eleftheriadis, Kestie Morassi, Richard Wilson, Chantal Contouri
"M is the highest paid professional of the many girls at Scarlet's, but even on her 25th Birthday, it's business as usual. M's trade is sex, but sex doesn't sell the way it used to; what clients are searching for, paying for .... is love". M is expert at giving clients what they wish for, but this year will her secret Birthday wish come true?
This is a surprisingly beautiful Australian drama that moved me to tears. Although the subject matter is prostitution and the majority of the film is set in a brothel, this movie is more about love than sex. Natalie Eleftheriadis gives a brilliant and emotionally-charged performance as the main character, M.
This was written and directed skillfully by James Harkness, and actually started out as a stage production. Actor Travis McMahon, who plays Father Phillip in Birthday, was at the play and apparently said to James Harkness "Mate, I reckon this would make a great film". I was surprised I had empathy for these sex workers, where normally they would disgust me, so that's a credit to both the script-writer and the acting talent. Yes, this has sex, nudity and a poem featuring the C word, but it's well worth being open-minded with this one; I found it to be quite a rewarding experience.
* Birthday is set (and was filmed) in my hometown, Adelaide! Elizabeth Centrelink is featured and The University of Adelaide is mentioned. J. Harkness is a South Australian film-maker.
* Main star Natalie Eleftheriadis was also a producer on the film.
* Chantal Contouri once joked to writer/director James Harkness about playing a sixty year old prostitute being the only thing that would entice her back to the screen. He offered her the role of Scarlet, the Madame, three months later.