A Foreign Affair
(a.k.a., 2 Brothers & a Bride)

directed by Helmut Schleppi
(Dreamscape, 2003)

When Mother drops over dead, bachelor brothers Josh and Jake are at a total loss. Mom ran the day-to-day life on the farm with an iron fist, doling out French toast and affection with equal parsimony.

They're down to eating canned food -- home-canned food, to be sure, but it's still canned. And it's not what Josh and Jake had in mind.

A little research on the Internet, and Jake (Tim Blake Nelson) has his plan all outlined: They're going to get a mail-order bride from Russia. Those women are traditional, he figures, won't mind living in the middle of nowhere and will be happy to cook and clean -- no sex involved -- for two years in exchange for a green card.

And so we get A Foreign Affair -- also out on DVD as 2 Brothers & a Bride -- on the search for a wife that has nothing to do with the search for love.

Jake and Josh (David Arquette) head off to St. Petersburg, Russia, where they're soon deep in the mix of socials, "conversations" with dates that are chaperoned by translators and lists of women identified by number. Jake's a by-the-numbers kind of guy, and he has no intention on getting caught by a pretty face who has no cooking skills. Josh, on the other hand, has a revelation: He's a chick magnet (though of course, the fact that he's attractive because he's a plane ticket out of St. Petersburg never crosses his mind).

The tug between the two, as Josh begins to assert himself and Jake sees their investment slipping away, is compounded by the arrival of Angela, a documentary maker who's filming the entire process of American men searching for Russian brides. Angela (Emily Mortimer) is alternately appalled at the process and understanding of the deep loneliness that can prompt it.

Mortimer and Nelson, especially, cross the line between farce and emotion with ease -- though I prefer Nelson in his quirkier roles, like O Brother, Where Art Thou?

What makes A Foreign Affair more interesting than the usual "strangers abroad" fare is the use of real "romance tour" clients and prospective Russian brides as extras. They get a chance to tell their stories and explain their choices, and what they have to say illuminates the movie.

So, while A Foreign Affair sure is no Affair to Remember, it holds its own in an oddly touching way.

- Rambles
written by Jen Kopf
published 27 November 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.