The rural areas of the greater United Kingdom never had secrets so dark. In director Sam Garbarski’s forthcoming film, “Irina Palm,” the small-time village folk have not only their families, bridge games and up-turned nosey smugness to worry about, but their secrets as well.
Maggie is a middle-aged woman whose family life is in the pit of despair as her only grandson suffers from an unexplained and unnamed illness. Bed-ridden, pale and sickly, her grandson’s only hope lies in new medical treatments a good 8,000 miles away in Australia. In a family already struggling for basics like bread, Maggie’s son and daughter-in-law scour banks and loan offices for money, to no avail.
In “Irina Palm,” we learn a hostess is not a delicious pastry nor is it a restaurant server. Desperate circumstances lead to desperate measures, and Maggie finds herself taking on the job of a euphemized hostess in the downtrodden muck of a sex club in London’s Soho. Men come in to dives for their five to six minutes in a glory hole and it turns out Maggie’s stage persona, Irina Palm, is the best in the business.
Having no skills but those which Mother Nature intended, Maggie throws herself into the world of making big bucks by feeding into one’s most basic and animalistic needs. In the process, she shows us what motherly love really is as she puts herself through hell for the payoff of what could possibly give her grandson a new lease at life.
English singer, songwriter, actress and modern wordsmith, Marianne Faithfull plays Maggie. Within a whirlwind of developing and kicking drug addictions, she’s bumped elbows with the likes of David Bowie and Roger Waters since the 1960s. “Irina Palm” shows how her presence still poignantly roams the media-frenzied world to this day.
Dual narrative counterpart Miki Manojlović plays the sex club owner with a heart of gold. Most popular as a Serbian actor, his filmography spans over three decades of filmmaking. His greasy hair and perpetually leather jacket make his character an appropriate juxtaposition to Maggie in Garbarski’s somewhat romantic tragicomedy.
Earning an award at the Berlin Film Festival and collecting nominations there and elsewhere at the European Film Awards and São Paulo International Film Festival, Garbarski’s “Irina Palm” was in the making for several years. Working through changing it from French to English, the final cut is a product of delicately labored filmmaking.
Camera movements are slow and thoughtful, following characters by way of close-ups and long shots that bounce along with their steps to reveal a camera aware of the stream of consciousness phenomenon. Each actor’s screen presence is a match to his/her character’s presence entirely. Faithfull is frumpy and unassuming while Manojlović is purposefully greasy and tricksy yet caring.
The film acts as an overall paraphrase for the length one woman would go for the sake of her loved ones. Maggie’s life does the proverbial 180-turn in “Irina Palm.” It’s a film where the choices one woman makes reveal more about the character of a mother and a woman than any film up to date. With Garbarski’s film, the audience will be treated to the true meaning of devotion and love through the travels of the one and only, “wanking widow.”