Dirty Pretty Things
4 out of 5 starsSHADOWS MUST SEE MUST-SEE
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dirty pretty things Frears returns home for another intimate, telling trip into the lower echelons of British society (My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie). We're among London's immigrant community, most of whom are illegally in the country. Okwe (Ejiofor) is a Nigerian who drives a cab by day and works as a hotel receptionist by night. He's a doctor by training, but has to lay low in Britain. His friends include the Turkish cleaning lady Senay (Tatou), a lively and funny hooker (Okonedo), a pathologist (Wong) and a self-absorbed doorman (Buric). Then he starts to discover strange things around the hotel involving his boss Juan (Lopez). As the story develops, Okwe and Senay get sucked into a nightmare involving a thuggish immigration officer (D'Silva), bosses even worse than Juan, and a black market in passports and body organs.

The title reflects the film's basic theme about how all sorts of unimaginable things go on out of sight, right under our noses. About how the entire British society is run by illegal immigrants who work in the shadows and are mercilessly pursued by the authorities, abused by their employers and manipulated by ruthless opportunists. Yes, this is strong stuff, but Frears avoids the soapbox by concentrating on the personal drama. Okwe's journey is involving and fascinating, moving and touching, romantic and terrifying ... all at the same time. And Ejiofor plays it perfectly--nailing the nice-guy fugitive dead on. We are fully with him in this story, understanding why the people around him all rely on him so much, even though there's no way he can ever be a legitimate member of society. Meanwhile, his budding romance with Senay is nicely underplayed (Tatou is very good, although not terribly convincing as a Turk). And Lopez sparkles in his first English-language role--but then we knew he was good at playing a smiling villain (see Harry He's Here to Help). All of this has the look and feel of an independent film, with its underground attitude and the way Frears and Knight seem to effortlessly capture the camaraderie and tension of the immigrant community. It also has a great story that moves quickly and suspensefully, touching on the ghastly reality these characters glimpse, not to mention the daily pressures, horrors and stolen joys. It's a very well-told, entertaining tale ... and an important film too.

cert 15 adult themes and situations, language, violence 22.Oct.02 lff

dir Stephen Frears
scr Steve Knight
with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, Sergi Lopez, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Wong, Jeffery Kissoon, Darrell D'Silva, Barber Ali, Sotigui Kouyate, Abi Gouhad, Jean-Philippe Ecoffey, Kenan Hudaverdi
release UK 13.Dec.02; US 18.Jul.03
BBC
02/UK 1h47

Amateur sleuths. Senay and Okwe try to figure out what's going on (Tatou and Ejiofor)

LONDON FILM FESTIVAL
Opening Night Film

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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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