[Last Film I Saw] My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

My Beautiful Laundrette poster

Title: My Beautiful Laundrette
Year: 1985
Country: UK
Language: English, Urdu
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Stephen Frears
Writer: Hanif Kureishi
Music: Ludus Tonalis
Cinematography: Oliver Stapleton
Cast:
Gordon Warnecke
Daniel Day-Lewis
Saeed Jaffrey
Roshan Seth
Derrick Branche
Shirley Anne Field
Rita Wolf
Souad Faress
Richard Graham
Stephen Marcus
Charu Bala Chokshi
Gurdial Sira
Rating: 7.2/10

My Beautiful Laundrette 1985

Under the iron curtain of Thatcherism in the 1980s, UK veteran Stephen Frears’ fourth feature film is an ethnic barrier-breaker in the world queer cinema, much as its fervid confrontations between races and social classes, the central closeted romance between an ex-punk Johnny (Day-Lewis) and a Pakistani Briton Omar (Warnecke) is nurtured with robust intimacy and élan.

Enclosed by a synth-pop heavy pulse, the film starts with Johnny and his gang being expelled from their squatting apartment by some heavies, a similar territory Daniel Day-Lewis would retread in IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER (1993), then cutting to introduce another protagonist, Omar, a college dropout sent to work for his uncle Nasser (Jaffrey) by his bed-ridden father (Seth), a disillusioned idealist and leftist), in Nasser’s car-washing lot, Omar meets Nasser’s business partner Salim (Branche), a menacing and overbearing bully who conducts some seedy business and Nasser’s mistress Rachel (Anne Field), who assumes a quite modernized view of being the other woman, but the entire entanglement will end up with some ludicrous witchcraft.

Omar is ambitious and fast-learning, soon he gets the permission to run Nasser’s dilapidated laundromat, and reunites with Johnny, who has been his best friend since childhood, together they embezzle the dough from Salim’s underhand drug smuggling and refurbish the laundrette and make a successful business, their romance is also rekindled. But at the same time, Omar is obliged by Nasser to marry his disobedient daughter Tania (Wolf), and Johnny is reckoned as a betrayer by his ne’er-do-well gang members since he is working for Palestinians (also as an unscrewer for kick out Nasser’s impecunious tenants), in addition to the conflict between Omar and Salim, there will be blood in the end.

Violence is a requisite in depicting the gulf between well-off immigrants and poverty-stricken native malcontents, xenophobia, racial bias and chauvinism, all can be easily related and incited under the harsh environs, but Frears doesn’t attempt to make a point by resorting too much to the excesses, whereas the tender, masculine attraction between two men is rendered with cozy panache and passion, truly, it is an in-the-closet relationship, but it is not about coming-out or AIDs, these routine trappings of the era, their future might be a moot point, however, the virtue of their love strikes as comfortingly authentic and endearing, thanks to the great pair Warnecke and Day-Lewis, one is resolutely sincere and the other is overwhelmingly charismatic, they do make a desirable couple together! Juxtaposed with its peers like MAURICE (1987) and ANOTHER COUNTRY (1984), MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE’s grassroots ambience and buoyant undertones applicably complement the missing piece of the UK queer cinema menagerie, not revolutionary, but a wonderful bliss indeed.

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