My Beautiful Laundrette

Stephen Frears | UK | 1986 | 93 mins

A perfect slice of Thatcherite Britain. And a fab gay romance. My Beautiful Laundrette is the story of Omar, a young restless Asian man caring for his alcoholic father in Thatcherite London. Escape comes in the form of his uncle's many and varied business ventures...

Omar dreams of success so works to achieve it. Along the way he meets up with old school-friend Johnny, who has betrayed him by falling in with a group of neo-nazis. Omar soon has Johnny working for him and his uncle. Turning the tables on him as he is made to rely on the very people he has been taught to hate. Johnny is almost continually followed and observed by his old gang of friends who are like a strange sort of Greek Chorus passively hanging around taunting Johnny for associating with Omar and his family whilst making almost no effort to better themselves; something which ambitious Omar strives to do.

The chemistry between Omar and Johnny is palpable and their relationship handled totally matter-of-factly. It's actually about the only part of the film not trying to score any political points and the whole matter is handled without the need for labels and self-defining - which is a breath of fresh air compared to most films where any gay romance appears in the plot.

Tension in the film is far more the result of socio-economic and racial inequalities. The whole thing is handled with grace, charm and wit. Anyone remotely familier with British film in particular will note the starry casting of supporting roles (many of whom you may have spotted in East is East most recently), though Danial Day Lewis is - now - the biggest star of the show. Here he shows the real substance behind his fame - more so than in any other film of his seen to date. The cast is universally excellent and the unique shooting, pacing and dialogue, quite quite brilliant despite the fact that this film was basically one of the first made for the FilmFour tv slots.

Some of the shots in this film could be used as a template for brilliance. An unexpected kiss in a dark alley is easily the most erotic single shot I have seen in a film. The grand opening of the launderette also includes a fantastically edited sequence. Despite a few reviews I have read claiming otherwise, I don't believe you need to be gay or Asian to get something out of this picture. Living in Britain may help, though it's a lot less than essential...

And hey! Wouldn't you love to throw your knickers into the washing machines of a neon-lit music-filled laudrette from heaven run by two young and insatiably energetic lovers? Well I would anyway! Pass the detergent this way please!

Review by Nicola Osborne
Taken from EUFS programme spring 2000