In 2004, screenwriter Stephen Knight went prowling in the London underworld and found one of the year's best big-screen stories—Dirty Pretty Things. In that film, illegal immigrants accepted laborious, thankless, humiliating jobs just to scrape up enough cash to survive. For some, desperation led to dangerous deals, like selling their bodily organs to the black market. But the underworld's overlord was eventually challenged by a brave, compassionate man—a hotel employee with medical skills—who stood up to defend the defenseless.
This year, Knight goes deeper into London's shadows and finds another story about monstrous people who take advantage of the vulnerable. He also finds another conflicted soul who takes measures to help a woman in jeopardy. This time, that "hero" is a member of the Russian mafia.
It starts like this: When a midwife named Anna (Naomi Watts) saves the unborn child of a dying Russian woman, she decides to look for the infant girl's family. How can she locate them? Anna decides to sift the dead woman's diary for clues.
But there's a problem. The diary's in Russian, and Anna needs help translating it. Her parents (Sinead Cusack and Jerzy Skolimowski) are reluctant; they think that the dead woman's belongings should be left alone.
So Anna appeals to a Russian restaurateur, a softspoken fellow named Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl). Semyon is more than willing to translate the diary. In fact, he has a personal interest in it. He's the head of the local Russian mobsters, and he suspects that the diary may reveal some of his deepest, darkest secrets. When Anna realizes her mistake, it's too late—she, her parents, and the infant are caught in the claws of London's most dangerous crook.