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United Kingdom 1985
Directed by
Stephen Frears
97 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

My Beautiful Laundrette

Although suffering from the stylistic traits of 80s film-making – a self-consciously “edgy” stylization usually denoted by rather allegorically-inclined stories of disaffected youth, low-fi production values, over-acting extras and an over-insistent soundtrack and sound FX, Frears’ direction is well-above average and the story by Hanif Kureishi is a credible portrayal of Thatcherite Britain. It was a surprise hit and launched the careers of both the director and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Day-Lewis plays Johnny, a squatter and sometime BNP lout who falls in with Omar (Gordon Warnecke), an Indian and former schoolfriend now eager to make something of himself in the world. Omar’s dodgy uncle (Saeed Jaffrey) gives him a rundown laundromat in South London and he enlists Johnny to help him. Johnny is not only not as tough as he pretends to be but he is gay and he and Omar’s relationship goes well beyond the workplace. Day-Lewis is clearly not comfortable with the physical requirements of his role but he is a compelling force in the film.  Warnecke who, unlike Day-Lewis, did little after this, his first film, is quietly effective as the young man both calculating and naïve enough to swallow Thatcher’s ideology of self-interest whole. Kureishi’s script is the real strength however and Frears delivers it with panache.

FYI: Frears and Kureishi combined their talents again with the stylistically similar but far less successful Sammy And Rosie Get Laid (1987).







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