Saturday, 23 January 2010

We Were Shagged Out.

That's right, another Daniel Day Lewis film. Looking him up, I remembered that I've always wanted to see My Beautiful Laundrette, and never had.

Day Lewis plays a supporting role as Johnny in this 1985 feature from Stephen Frears (who did The Queen), playing below Gordon Warnecke as Omar. (I love watching older films, when you see otherwise huge above the line names in today's world credited somewhere in the middle of the pack. I love remembering that they weren't always stars.) Omar is of Pakistani heritage and soon set to start studying, at the behest of his father Ali (Roshan Seth.) In the meantime he is simply spending time around the house, looking after his alcoholic ex-journalist father. Ali sets Omar up with a job with family, working for Nasser (Saeed Jaffrey) who runs an auto-repair workshop. Omar is soon promoted to managing a laundrette that Nasser also owns, though he negotiates a deal whereby he runs the shop, pays Nasser a fixed rent, and banks the profits.

Meanwhile he has run into an old school-friend and gang member Johnny, and the two have struck up a friendship that quickly develops into something more. Omar is hiding this from his family, so the opportunity for Johnny to leave his gang and help Omar develop the laundrette into something spectacular (as far as laundrettes go) is too perfect for them to give up - they get to spend enormous amounts of time together, alone, with cause.

The business goes well and Omar becomes quite cut-throat. Johnny is effectively destitute without Omar to support him, and Omar takes on a massive power ego, controlling Johnny as well. However, after Johnny is set upon by his ex-gang, the two reconcile. The ending is left beautifully open - they are obviously together, however the may appear to be mismatched, but the question of how long they will stay happy together remains.

All of the performances here are fantastic. Day Lewis, as always, exceptional, but the supports from a primarily subcontinental cast back him up strongly, while Warnecke carries the film very well. The grittiness of the world both of them inhabit (different kinds of underworld, but the underworld nonetheless) is very well portrayed, shot by Oliver Stapleton. It was also nice to see queer cinema told well, not preaching, not trying to make any sort of political point, and not steeped in historicism. (Well, watching it now it's historical, but at the time it was current.) Refreshingly, the Omar/Johnny relationship is not in any way a driving point of the film, really, nor does it cause any great turmoil. Despite the fact that it's closeted, it just is. And that doesn't happen all that often.

3.5 stars again.

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