A truthful depiction of forbidden love.Trivia:
Released: September 7 1985
Directed by: Stephen Frears
Written by: Hanif Kureishi
Staing: Gordon Warnecke, Daniel Day-Lewis, Saeed Jaffrey and Roshan Seth.
Running Tim: 97 minutes.
By Gregory Robinson
To begin my review, I have to make one thing clear - I have never been a fan of romantic movies. The predictability and soppiness of a generic love story, which usually involves unrequited love, fails to thrill me. On the other hand, cinema goers flock to see the latest 'will-they-won't-they' extravaganza. As a result, I watched "My Beautiful Launderette" with one eye covered... at first.
"Launderette" takes place in South London, and follows Omar Ali (Gordon Warnecke), an ambitious young man whose daily tasks involve caring for his poorly father (Roshan Seth). They live in a cramped, one-floor apartment adjacent to an overground train line which was the site where his mother committed suicide previously. Realising his son currently has no other options than signing up for 'the dole' Under Thatcher's Britain and completing menial tasks in the flat, persuades him to contact his uncle Nesser (Saeed Jaffrey) for a job at his failing launderette. Eventually, he asks his childhood, punk friend Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis) to help out. Their feelings of love and attraction are thwarted by the lingering attitudes of racism, homophobia and their conflicting cultures.
The interesting thing about "Launderette" is its ability to seamlessly merge the trails faced by young people during Thatcher's Britain – unemployment and non-existent futures and other problems which affected the wider population – racism and caring for a sick parent. The script manages to also include the often overlooked trials of young people, such as prohibited love, discovering oneself and freedom.
British-born actor Daniel Day-Lewis, a three times Best-Actor Academy Award winner, gives an outstanding portrayal of a non-stereotypical gay man oppressed by the punk culture he is drawn too. Much like Omar, he has limited opportunities and a lagging future which only makes him more eager to work with his childhood friend. Omar’s father is opposed to the idea due to his rebel attitude. “Why are you working for Pakis? They’re over here to work for us!” declares one of the racist punks after Johnny share their first – of many – taboo kisses.
Culture is a major factor in Johnny and Omar’s love. Johnny is drawn to the punk culture. Rebellious and defiant, and acting in accordance to one’s own rules. On the other hand, Omar’s religion prevents any outward display of love between the pair. What’s saddening about this portrayal of a homosexual relationship is that – in 2014, a couple like Johnny and Omar would never be able to express their love for each other, in either of their communities.
Some would say to abandon the culture which restricts them from being who they are, which is fairly similar to the actions of Omar’s Uncle Nesser. He rejects the rules of his culture, claiming “I’m not a professional Pakistani” as he forcefully evicts a Rastafarian man from his flat. He decides to give the home to the ‘white man’. Additionally, his white wife and obligation to drink and drugs show his dedication to a more ‘western’ way of thinking.
A love story is nothing without a relationship at the focus, but the reason why ‘Launderette’ triumphs in its genre is because it rejects the regular stereotypes and tackles a wider range of issues within a community which happen to be relevant 29 years later.