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Irina Palm


Stars: Marianne Faithfull, Miki Manojlovic, Jenny Agutter, Kevin Bishop, Siobhan Hewlett, Dorka Gryllus

Director: Sam Garbarski

In a role you might expect to be played by Imelda Staunton or Julie Walters, a deglamorised Faithfull is (the character's own description), 'a frumpy, middle-aged widow' called Maggie whose grandson (Corey Burke) is dying from an unnamed illness. Having already sold her house, she now finds that the only hope for a cure lies in Australia - but her squabbling son and daughter-in-law (Bishop, Hewlett) cannot afford the fare.

Failing everything else, she takes a job in a sex club, helping, through a hole in the wall, men to masturbate. After a diffident start, she proves so good at it that she's coining in hundreds of pounds, and the club owner (Manojlovic), who's developing a soft spot for her, gives her a new name - Irina Palm.

She decorates her little room with pictures and flowers, but develops a painful elbow that necessitates putting her arm in a sling (It's not logical that she wouldn't tell her friends, led by a spiky Agutter, how she did it when they themselves provide her with perfectly plausible excuses).

If this sounds like a particularly risque Ealing comedy, it comes across as heavy drama with lighter moments, as slow and ponderous as Maggie's own measured tread - and far too much time, incidentally, is spent just watching her walk along. Faithfull is OK in the title role without bringing much in the way of nuance to it.

David Quinlan

UK/Germany/Belgium/Luxemburg/France 2006. UK Distributor: Soda Pictures. Colour by Dejonghe.
103 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 10 Jun 2008