My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Gay & Lesbian Films, Urban Drama  |   Release Date - Mar 7, 1986 (USA)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

This terse, elliptical, complicated film reveals new layers with each viewing despite the somewhat simplistic hopefulness of its message that love and loyalty can conquer differences in class, politics, and ethnic background. Writer Hanif Kureishi and director Stephen Frears pack My Beautiful Laundrette with so many characters, ideas, and well-observed moments that stars Gordon Warnecke and Daniel Day-Lewis barely get the chance to demonstrate their characters' dance of desire and economic power. It's a toss-up whether the compression of Johnny and Omar's romance and struggle with the past into a few key scenes is the mark of brilliantly cinematic storytelling or simply of Kureishi's inexperience; either way, My Beautiful Laundrette is hardly a romantic comedy despite the sweetness of its love story and the wry humor of its tangled social and economic circles. Day-Lewis and Warnecke are appealing in their fresh-faced naïveté and bravado, but it's Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth, and the tart, smart Rita Wolf whose perceptive, pitch-perfect characters provide the theories and examples by which Omar can gauge his integration into Anglo-Pakistani society. All this talk of identity politics makes My Beautiful Laundrette sound strident and stuffy, but it isn't. Full of indelible characters and well-defined conflicts, Frears and Kureishi's film works on the most basic level as a coming-of-age story -- one whose rich details provide astute audiences with plenty to ponder.