Often, I'm drawn to movies about off-beat topics related to necessity and despair. These conditions create situations where characters must make difficult choices. If it's a non-US film, the choices are rougher. Irina Palm is a brilliant example. It's been several weeks since I watched it but I have thought about it since.
Marianne Faithful stars as passive, walked-upon and "frumpy" Maggie. Her grandson, Ollie (Corey Burke) will die of a rare unspecified disease unless her son, Tom, and his wife, Sarah, can raise the money they need to fly to Australia for Ollie's life-saving surgery. Sarah treats Maggie with scorn. Her relationship with Tom is strained, probably due to Ollie's situation but you get the sense things haven't ever been much better. Maggie and Tom's "strings-not-cut" relationship is complex and Tom is often rude. Maggie takes it without a mere flinch.
She attempts to get a job to help raise the money, but with no work history nor workplace skills, she faces dead-end after dead-end, while Ollie continues to face death. When she walks past a handwritten sign at the entrance of a strip club seeking a hostess, she inquires with the manager, Miki (Miki Manojlovic). She learns that a hostess in this club doesn't serve tea. No, instead, they get men off...anonymously. The clients place their equipment through a hole in the wall and she jerks them off from the other side. After some hesitation and further contemplation, Maggie takes the job. She's a quick study and learns she's quite good. Soon, she develops quite a clientele and her own alias, "Irina Palm."
Maggie's life is complicated by trying to keep her two worlds separate. There are silly little details that tickled me and introduced subtle but important information. The relationship between Maggie and Miki is wonderful. Miki is quite likable, yet still thuggish. Maggie has a pack of three lady friends who are wretched. The woman who "trains" her, Luisa (Dorka Gryllus) is an unusually compelling character (she should get her own movie telling Luisa's story as the next installation). They are flawed and intriguing characters.
Faithful is terrific finessing Maggie as she starts to come into her own (no pun intended). The ending is saccharin and I enjoyed the sugary sweetness of its predictability. Watch this one. It takes its time and tells a rewarding yarn.
Themes: love, betrayal, terminal illness, mother-son relationships, husband-wife relationships, hand jobs, financial difficulties
Director: Sam Garbarski
Minutes: 103 minutes