My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) Poster

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What A Laundrette!
Chrysanthepop5 November 2008
'My Beautiful Laundrette' takes a look at the 80's local life within the Asian communities in England and between the British Southeast Asians and the British Caucasians. What I loved about this film is that it presents its themes without going overboard to explain or to resolve anything. When we see a relationship develop between Omar and Johnny, one would expect to see them get attacked for it and then expect a preachy message like gays have rights too but there is nothing like that. There are scenes where the British Asians are being humiliated but this too does not lead to a bloodbath of sorts. It is all downplayed and subtle. It's about the characters, rather than a social message (but that's there too).

'My Beautiful Laundrette' mainly centres around Omar and his relationship with Johnny. Hanif Kureishi is known for telling tales about unconventional relationships and I thought it was great that both characters were shown to be open about their relationships in spite of their background. I mean they weren't screaming from the roof or anything but these two individuals did not care what others would think concerning their relationships. Frears deserves full marks for telling the story in such a raw, real, humorous and coherent way. The humour too is subtle and dry and flows well through the story.

The renovated laundrette too plays a crucial role. It is a place of comfort for Omar and Johnny, kind of like a home they built and decorated. The customers are amused by the beauty of it. A fascinated Nasser dances with his girlfriend while the customers eagerly wait outside. Thus, it becomes a place of comfort for many.

The characters are well etched. Both their strength and fragility is well displayed by the actors. Daniel Day-Lewis and Gordon Warnecke are excellent as Johnny and Omar. Day-Lewis brilliantly brings out Johnny's vulnerable and passionate side while on the exterior he appears as a tough and scary guy. Likewise Warnecke too effectively portrays Omar's determination and passion. A charismatic Saeed Jaffrey is phenomenal as the cheerful helpful uncle who goes through his own transformation. Rita Wolf is wonderful as the daughter who's in search of her own identity. Roshan Seth is good as the whiny father. The rest of the cast do well.

Pretty much all the characters are in search of something except that Omar and Johnny find what they want and Nasser loses what he had. The film does not end by providing a solution for everyone. And that is one of the many brilliance of it as it reflects that everyone has their own life to deal with and questions will arise but life goes on and it is up to us to choose the answer.

Simply great.
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A perfect slice of Thatcherite Britain.....oh! And a fab gay romance..
Nic-828 December 1998
A classic film in my book, 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 uncles many and varied business ventures,...

Anyone who experienced anything of life in '80's Britain will recognise the craving for instant financial success. Similarly I am sure Asian viewers will recognise the struggles inherent in finding an identity in a country which is your home but which can never feel quite like your real home.

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-nazi's. 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. The chemistry between Omar and Johnny is palpable and their relationship handled totally matter-of-factly. About the only part of the film not trying to score any political points is the gay relationship. There is a "so-what" attitude and no-one comes out at any point. And why should they?

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, 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.

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.

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 insatiably young and energetic lovers?

Well I would anyway! Pass the detergent this way please!
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Magic-realist masterpiece.
the red duchess7 December 2000
A rare instance of magic-realism that actually works in the cinema. The realism is a scrupulously observed portrait of 80s London, its people (entrepreneurs, drunks, racists, wide-boys), locales (dingy flats, delapidated laundrettes, murky car lots) and attitudes (strutting capitalism, dessicated liberalism, farcical extremism).

The magic comes from Frears' style, tweaking and heightening the real; from stylised scenes such as Omar's reuniting with Johnny; from some magical set-pieces, especially the opening of the laundrette, Omar and Johnny making love cut with Nasser and Rachel's waltz; from the clashing of an exotic, Oriental world in a determinedly materialist context.

Kureishi's script is occasionally heavy-handed, but sex is never far from his analyses of power and identity - Omar's crucial tirade against Johnny has a thrilling, Genet-esque frisson.
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A brilliantly observed and wickedly funny study of its central themes and characters
dr_clarke_225 February 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Stephen Frears' 1985 film My Beautiful Laundrette - originally made for Channel 4 television but given a cinema release following favourable reviews at the Edinburgh Film Festival - is based on a screenplay by Hanif Kureishi and focuses on tensions between English and Pakistani communities in Thatcher-era London. At the same time, it famously revolves around a gay relationship between Gordon Warnecke's Omar and Daniel Day-Lewis' Johnny, making it groundbreaking in more ways than one. Kureishi's screenplay - not unusually for him - boasts very witty dialogue and casts an acerbic eye over the problems of society at the time, managing to do so with warmth rather than cynicism. At one point, Omar's Uncle Nasser gleefully refers to "this damn country that we hate and love" and tells Omar how to "squeeze the tits of the system". He gets all the best lines, including "I'm a professional businessman, not a professional Pakistani. And there is no question of race in the new enterprise." Kureishi writes believable characters supremely well; everybody here has complex motivations and is capable of good and bad actions, whilst inter-personal relationships are complicated and true. The film is firmly rooted in Thatcher's Britain - or at least popular perceptions of what that was - with racial tensions and marginalisation of minority groups running side by side with Nasser's (and Omar's) embracing of capitalism and the opportunities he sees within it. But it also isn't entirely predictable. Early in the film, a potentially violent encounter between Omar and his family with racist street punks is completely derailed when Omar largely ignores them and goes to talk to their leader Johnny, an old school friend. Kureishi examines the racist attitudes on display and then subverts them; not only does Johnny turn his back on his past when offered happiness with Omar, but Moose - a member of his old gang - is at several points seen helping out at the laundrette, until Salim deliberately drives over his foot. What is really striking now - given the film's reputation as a pivotal example of LGBTQ cinema - is that the relationship between Omar and Johnny goes almost entirely unremarked on by anyone else. This is largely because they are successful in keeping it a secret from Omar's family (his father Hussein and Nassar plot to pair him up with Tania, who quietly and bitterly leaves after - it is implied - learning the truth from Johnny) and from Johnny's former gang, but Kureishi's decision not to "out" them during the course of the story again illustrates that he is seldom a writer who takes predictable routes. Considering that it was made on a television budget in the nineteen eighties, My Beautiful Laundrette has aged well; shot on location around London suburbs Wandsworth, Vauxhall and Battersea, it is meticulously directed by Frears. Cinematographer Oliver Stapleton shows off the locations to good effect, including the titular laundrette. The scene of Nasser dancing with Rachel in the laundrette is beautifully shot and Frears intercuts it with a scene of Johnny and Omar making love which is one of many small touches that give the film an occasionally surreal air, along with Tania's sudden disappearance from the station platform at the end. Warnecke and Day-Lewis both give superb, naturalistic performances, and it proved to be something of a breakthrough performance for the latter who is remarkable as the working class thug trying to better himself and finding love. The film also benefits a superb supporting cast including Roshan Seth as Omar's alcoholic Papa, Saeed Jaffrey as his uncle Nasser and Derrick Branche as his cousin Salim. If there is one thing that dates the film more than its actual setting and plot, it is the unfortunate use of synthesisers on the soundtrack by Stanley Myers (and Hans Zimmer, credited as Ludus Tonalis), although on the other hand the whimsical bubbling sound used for scenes in the laundrette is simple but effective. But whilst some of the film's details may feel like historical artefacts (although depressingly not quite as much as they should), My Beautiful Laundrette remains a brilliantly observed and wickedly funny study of its central themes and characters.
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Highly recommended, entertaining slice of real London life
LouE1515 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Hanif Kureishi's unique world is always fascinating, always challenging: a direct rebuttal to a world in which the "British" are something out of a 1950s time warp (forever white, middle-class, village-dwelling). But he's never been so on-point, so relevant, direct and just plain right as with his script for Stephen Frears' well-made "My Beautiful Laundrette".

Gordon Warnecke plays Omar, a young Pakistani Londoner needing a direction in life in 1980's Britain: time of Thatcher, of aspiration, accumulation. He may be young and good-looking, but he's penniless and without prospects. His failed intellectual father (the great Roshan Seth) delivers him to jaws of the lion, as it were, for the sake of giving him a future. The lion is his uncle (the also great Saeed Jaffrey), rich, successful, an all too literal product of Thatcher's Britain. Omar's world becomes divided between his father, his uncle and his unlikely, erstwhile friend and sometime NF supporter, punk dropout Johnny (an early Daniel Day Lewis).

The world of 'Sarf' London in the 80s is brilliantly depicted – from the feel of the streets right down to the fundamental, almost feudal divide between rich and poor. But it's also a very funny film, sharp and romantic. Neither Omar nor Johnny are meant to succeed in this particular world. But both find a way to defy the bounds set by those around them: what might I suppose be considered the ultimate Thatcherite success – that is, in defiance of the odds, by hook or crook.

Omar and Johnny become lovers - but it's entirely incidental; it can't be allowed to get in the way of business. Certainly it doesn't make them any more outcast than they were already. London has changed a lot. Johnny's kiss stolen from Omar on a dark street corner is one of the all time sexiest moments I can think of in a film, and I can see from other reviewers that I'm not alone. (Hardly necessary to add that you don't have to be gay to enjoy this film – any more than that you have to be a Londoner or British.)

Daniel Day Lewis has since made his way to superstardom; Gordon Warnecke inexplicably languishes in occasional British TV appearances today, as far as I can tell. But both actors are really believable in their roles, both playing complicated, real human characters, driven and held back by multiple forces.

Kureishi tells the searing, unapologetic truth always. With a great eye for character, he knows how to make what people really say, work dramatically. Check out his TV series "The Bhudda of Suburbia", if you can find it. Frears is one of the small handful of great British directors: check out his very funny "The Snapper".

Films like this helped shape my world as a teenager: a Brit classic.
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multicultural and multisexual perspectives
didi-519 August 2003
Stephen Frears' film of Hanif Kureshi's script about the Pakistani and the NF punk who grew up as friends, and find themselves attracted to each other again. Gordon Warneke and Daniel Day-Lewis play the lovers in this intelligent movie which has a cheap British tinge but has some superb moments (Saeed Jaffrey as Warneke's uncle, ‘a professional businessman, not a professional Pakistani') within it.

Perhaps the longest-lasting image is the two boys in the back room of the launderette, splashing each other with water, and putting aside the political differences between them. Whether it truly makes its points about race and sexuality I'm not sure.
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My Beautiful Daniel Day Lewis!
absinthe12323 August 2003
It bugs me that this movie is the "gay" movie, just like it bugs me when a movie with black people is labeled the "black" movie. What about Mafia movies? Are those for people who are "involved"? What about "Seven" I guess that's a cult classic for serial killers. Come on, a good movie is a good movie. Trust me I identified with Omar - and I'm a straight hispanic girl - probably more than I have with any other character in a movie. This movie is about homosexuality like Charlotte Gray is about hair dye.

This movie is definitely one of my favorites. It is a look a young man (a gorgeous Pakistani named Omar) who basically tries to balance being Pakistani and British at the same time. He wants to have a business and be successful, in that Western capitalist way, and yet he wants to be good to his family and his father in that sense of family loyalty that only those of us from other cultures really understand. Omar asks his uncle to tell stories about his family in Pakistan, yet he doesn't understand his people's language - Urdu, I believe it is. This is a little insight for our white friends about what us "in-betweens" have to go through. Too ethnic for the white people, too white for our own people. It's nice to show the ethnic people looking down on the poor whites, because we do, we look down on low class white people, we have our snobbery too. It may not be right, but it's the truth. It's nice to show the sort of affectionate annoyance Omar found his Papa and Nasser for trying to help him. White people see that as overbearing, something to "escape" from (like Tania, who was the "whitest" of them all) Ethnic people have a sense of humor about it, because we know it means love, and like Omar most of us just choose to quietly listen and ignore their advice rather than make a scene. Omar never makes a scene.

That's what Johnny represents I think, the part of us we keep to ourselves, our passions and desire and those things that are too special to share, kind of like a spiritual belief. It makes their love seem almost sacred because it's too special for them to bring out and expose to the criticism of less enlightened people. It's worth noting that it's Johnny who kisses Omar semi-openly in the street, and it's Omar who doesn't tell his family why he can't marry Tania. I dont think it's so much homophobia as it a cultural difference as to what should be kept private. I could sort of see Johnny in the future demaning Omar tell his family.

Their love scene is gorgeous. When you first see Johnny he seems so rough and coarse and low class, but as he begins to seduce Omar while Omar talks about the past he suddenly seems powerful and sophisticated and . . . and just to see them getting it on on the table. It's very sweet and tender with the frantic kissing and the champange, but my god is it hot.

This certainly is a romantic (and more importantly) positive movie where two men are in love yet have a real conflict between them, and obviously gay men are right to love that, but hey, it works for informing white people, making minorities laugh, British people who grew up during that time, showing idiot homophobes that gay people are just the same as everyone else, DDL fans. Don't just slap the gay label on it and dismiss it!
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It ain't exactly integration, is it?
markmuhl26 April 2016
The film has undoubtedly the look and feel from the eighties but its central topic, the integration of immigrants into a new society, is very up-to-date, today maybe even more than in the days when the film was produced.

The film covers many aspects in this field without really taking a stand, a fact that makes it especially valuable. Stephen Frears does a good job in showing that good integration is not an easy achievement. The movie shows us that it would be much more so if many immigrants were not so stupidly attached to their own traditions, if underprivileged locals did not feel so threatened by the business success of some immigrants and if locals and immigrants showed a greater respect for groups other than their own one.

The Pakistani immigrant family in the center of the movie may look integrated but it is only the money from its successful business ventures that is doing the trick. Culturally they are living in a different world, especially the elder women. Probably the witty and intelligent daughter suffers most from this tense atmosphere. Grown up in a free and liberal Society she is expected to stick to the ancient traditions with little respect for female self-determination.

Then there is the nephew and main protagonist who is given the chance by his uncle to run a bedraggled laundrette. This chance does not do his character any good. He becomes greedy and arrogant and has his English unemployed and homeless boyfriend work for him and makes him feel who is the one with the money.

The uncle's English girlfriend is another interesting character. At first sight, she seems to be very opportunistic in simply looking for the man with the money. During the movie however, we get to know that she likes the man because he is the only one who ever cared for her. In the end after violent acts from the side of the Paki family, we can see her as a lady who hasn't thrown off all her feelings and is still vulnerable in her pride.

Homosexuality and its acceptance by society is the second underlying topic of the movie. It can be seen that in those days gay love still had to be practiced in the dark but already was a strong force for the people in concern that no longer would be ignored.

The film is also a historic document in the sense that it is showing the effects of Thatcherism on the lower social class. Social welfare was cut down in those days and the movie shows us a considerable amount of young working class people being homeless and overall on the losing end of society.

Apart from all that content it is also a very young Daniel Day Lewis who is adding quality to the movie. His unique and fascinating way of gazing at people does not allow for any shallow feelings.

In total, a work of substance. No wonder that this movie is one of the most renowned examples for the 80's label 'New British Cinema'.
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Intelligent & aren't Johnny and Omar cute?
Boyo-229 October 1999
I like this movie very much, even if I don't know anything about British politics, the class struggle or how to run a business. I don't even know what the characters are talking about half the time, but its obvious that they know, so it doesn't matter. And for once its nice to see a gay relationship as part of the movie rather than the reason for the movie.
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A business deal melds immigrant and punk
lib-420 October 1998
For its time MBL was a break through movie. London is a very complicated place for colonials and for punks. As the friendship between the boys develops- complications arise. What I liked about this film was its unpretentiousness. You can hear and almost smell the various neighborhoods of London. And Daniel Day Lewis certainly showed his potential for the star he would become.
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Deserves a much higher IMDb rating
miss_lady_ice-853-60870027 February 2013
Maybe it's the fact that the film's very British and very eighties but how can this possibly score 6.9 whereas tripe like Good Will Hunting gets 8? Sometimes I despair at the reviewers on here.

Anyway, back to the film. Omar (Gordon Warnecke) is a young Asian guy who goes to work for his Thatcherite uncle (Saeed Jaffrey). His ambition is to renovate his uncle's run-down laundrette. He gets in his white mate Johnny (Daniel Day Lewis) to give him a hand and the two guys fall in love.

My Beautiful Laundrette completely encapsulates the zeitgeist of 1980's Britain, tackling everything from racial tension, immigration, generation differences, class differences, Thatcherism and homosexuality. I say 'tackle'- it's presented but the viewer is allowed to make their own minds up. This is primarily a coming-of-age film and on that level it can appeal to everyone.

As for the arguments that you can only like this film if you fit into one of the criteria portrayed here or the period it was set in, they're completely ridiculous. So, we can only like Schindler's List if we're a Nazi or a Jew and were alive in the forties? Come on people. The only criteria I fit in with this film is that I live in Britain- not even London, where the film's set.

What a lot of people dislike about the film is that it portrays a lot of the tensions happening in Britain but it does so on a very human level. No character is just a victim of the state. It's a light romantic comedy that lets us see the violence and racism but doesn't linger, making it more powerful when things do happen.

As for the relationship between Omar and Johnny, it's portrayed very tenderly (and very sexily, though tasteful). What is rare for a 'gay film'- a label given to any film that has gay characters in- is that the characters aren't tortured over their sexuality or punished. It's just portrayed as a normal loving relationship and the two actors- both straight- are very convincing.

Now Daniel Day Lewis has bagged his third Oscar, breaking the record for Best Actor, how does he fare in a very early film in his career? I really enjoyed his performance- you can see there's something about him, even at this age. His facial structure is outstanding- he looks very striking. And there's none of the mannerisms you might expect from an actor destined to do well. He comes across as a fresh talent- which he was.
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'My Beautiful Laundrette' is one film you won't soon forget.
bryank-0484411 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Stephen Frears is one of those directors with an amazing body of work, although most people wouldn't be able to tell you anything he ever directed. With films like 'The Grifters', and 'Dangerous Liasons', you can already tell he knows what he's doing behind the camera. He is more known for the iconic John Cusack film 'High Fidelity', the recent award winning film 'Philomena', or even 'Dirty Pretty Things'. Needless to say, this is a quite the impressive list of films, all having very different qualities and tones.

But one thing remains constant here, which is Frear's uncanny ability to film his characters so well, that they stay in our lives forever. Well, that and tell an amazing story, no matter how big or small it is. One of Frear's first films was called 'My Beautiful Laundrette', which came out 30 years ago, and was originally made for television, but later converted to a feature film. Currently, the movie has a rare 100% rating still on Rotten Tomatoes and was even nominated for a sole Oscar for Best Screenplay, but lost out to Woody Allen at the time.

In addition to this success, this film marked one of the first films for the multi Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis, and no, he didn't win an Oscar here. 'My Beautiful Laundrette' centers around a young Pakistani man named Omar (Gordon Warnecke), living in south London during the height of Margaret Thatcher's reign of England. Omar's father wants him to go to university to get a good education and a great job, rather than working dead end jobs, however Omar takes a shining to his uncle Nasser (Saeed Jaffrey), who runs a few businesses, but isn't the best person to look up to, due to his infidelity. Uncle Nasser offers Omar to run a local laundry mat he owns and restore it to make a decent profit.

As Omar is working at the laundry mat, he comes across an old friend he hasn't seen in years named Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis), a local skinhead now and part of a gang. The two instantly reconnect and hit it off and form a passionate relationship. Omar even has Johnny help with fixing up and running the laundry mat, much to the disrespect of Johnny's fellow gang members and Nasser's business associate, who happens to be a drug runner. It's a simple story really, but it's also a very honest and convincing portrayal of two friends and lovers in a time, where it wasn't really permitted, due to the social and political views of government and the people.

This story that tackles homosexuality, racism, and opposing political views is actually told through a light-hearted voice. Even though there is a bit of violence in the movie, it is often comical and heart warming, due to the phenomenal relationship between Johnny and Omar. I also believe that Frears wanted to showcase not only what race, religion, and sexual preference did to one another in the form of treating others with respect or lack thereof, but also the financial situations of people of this time, that allowed them to discriminate against their fellow neighbors.

It's an amazing, yet simple story, one that would be hard to replicate in today's world. Daniel Day-Lewis is of course excellent in his role, and his relationship with Warnecke is completely believable. It's a shame those two weren't nominated for acting awards. 'My Beautiful Laundrette' is one film you won't soon forget.
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No One Gets Killed
movietrail26 February 2007
It figures this movie was not made in the USA... If it was, then main gay characters would either have to get killed or at least decently commit, or try to commit, suicide, get castigated or openly persecuted or both for their sexuality, and of course there would have to be a gays-are-people-too sermon somewhere in there. In fact, in this movie, while the gays may not have it easy, neither does anyone else; while in fact the non-gays get much more s--t than our two gay heroes, who seem to playing everybody off of each other anyway. You keep expecting someone to burst in upon their smooching or harassing them on the street or some other such low-down thing, but no (and knowing this makes it so much more easy to watch the second time)! To the Hollywood-weaned watcher, the start is slow and you don't quite know which way things are going, but we are very naturally eased into the two guys' relationship. It's very sweet, Romeo and Jules-like stuff. And like other reviewers mention, it is also so natural and well- made (and carried so many other taboos) that gay seems barely to be the issue. It is not a happy ending for many of the main characters in the movie, but life goes on. Just like life actually does.
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The laundrette that will wash the dirty linen of a few clichés... and break a few taboos...
ElMaruecan8229 October 2021
"My Beautiful Laundrette" centers on Omar, a young, ambitious and enthusiastic member of the Pakistani Diaspora in London, played by Gordon Warnecke, assigned to run a ratty laundry and turns it into a hip and successful launderette named "Powders", a subtle hint at the business that allowed him to finance it.

Now, take that word Pakistani, it's only two syllables away from one of the ugliest racial slurs in the Oxford dictionary, one delivered from a pedestal of post-colonial superiority to any person whose brown complexion and wavy black hair indicate (or betray) a South-East Asian background, Pakistanis, Indians, Indonesians or a certain Farroch Bulsara before he became Freddie Mercury. To dig even deeper in that turf, it's even surprising that it's from one specific country that originated the denomination as if there was a tacit scale of subservience and that an Indian wouldn't want to be called that way, but not for the right reasons.

Anyway, the film is far beyond these considerations and treat them as a sort of reality check of Britain in the mid-80s and if there's one merit to Stephen Frears' debut and adaptation of Hanif Kureichi's script, is that that very launderette (pun intended) washes down all the preconceptions about a community, which is willing to embrace success British-style in these liberal days where money could buy it and vice versa. Much to Omar's luck, he's got a wealthy uncle who made fortune and I have to write a few words about Saeed Jaffrey who plays the charismatic and colorful Nasser.

This is a man who's well spoken, well-educated, well-established within his community and can enjoy the fruits of his labor without any shame. He's got a family, three daughters, runs many businesses more or less shady and naturally, he's got a mistress, an English one played by Shirley Anne Field and you know this is not a film that scratches on the surface as getting the white girl is one step in the social ladder. Not implying that this was Nasser's intent, his romantic interaction with Rachel are genuine and sincere, but even that sweetness isn't devoid of interest, for a British mistress allows you to behave like a British man in the intimacy as well, waltzing with classic music isn't exactly what Nasser could do with a traditional wife.

What Nasser is looking for is a way to rise above the slur, much to the disgust of his daughter Tania (Rita Wolf) who, risen in Britain, speaks the two languages and can see his father's two-faced or two-hearted nature; still, as a girl, she's also nurtured to satisfy a man, and why not? Omar who's successful and good-looking. Omar looks up to his uncle, who's a far better model than his father (Roshan Seth), a sickly and bitter former journalist who drowns his sorrow in alcohol. To complete the gallery, there's Salim (Derrick Branche) a young shark who asks Omar to dress smart in order to please Margaret Thatcher, quite the clever blow. These young people who are game for the flashy 80s but are fully aware that they're the underdogs. But compared to the candid Omar, Salim is such a slick wolf one might expect he represents the destination of Omar's arc.

Thankfully, just like its portrayal of immigrants, this is not a film that relies on stereotypes and clichés, whether based on races, genders and last but not least: sexual orientations. The second surprise comes with the introduction of a white character, Johnny (Daniel Day Lewis) as an ex-street punk kid who belongs to a sort of fascist group and without any transition whatsoever, when he meets Omar, we see that they have history together, former friends who become lovers (and there's a certain daringness in the way the film features their love, what could be see trendy in the 80s) it's also interesting that Frears who had the material to put the Pakistani people under the radar chooses to have an additional element that would lose their sympathy.

Some might question whether the two couldn't just have been friends but I guess Huneifi wanted to spice up the irony a little by making Salim twice an outcast, in society and in his own community and Johnny through his sexual orientation and because he's working for a Pakistani, which according to his "friends" is the height of submissiveness. It's also a subtle implication that Omar (who might be bisexual) is perhaps the most complete embodiment of the Occidental freedom, as even his liberal uncle wouldn't admit it.

Oddly enough, Frears doesn't embarrass himself with plot points and narrative requirements, he didn't expect such material would attract crowds, he made it like what could have been a wonderful pilot for a soap opera. Still, "My Beautiful Launderette" is the very kind of films that make you question the notion of good or bad, it is original without indulging to fancy shots and it also offers Day-Lewis an interesting role, so opposite to his performance as an uptight Victorian gentleman in "A Room with a View" that it put him right under the radar and the rest was history. Saeed's performance would earn him a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor

Now, there's an interesting leitmotif in the film, which is feet, not the sensual fetishism but the submission symbolism, in less than thirty minutes, we see Salim humiliating Omar by putting his feet on his face, then Salim cutting his father's toenails and later Nasser being massaged by a group of women like a sultan in his harem. It suggests the idea that in this world, we're all under the feet of someone, either it's to establish one's superiority or devotion, and as a cynical existential dilemma, you either put your foot on someone or gets his on your face... these odd interactions elevate the moments of tenderness between the two lovers with two 'opposite' men... on equal footing.
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A great movie dealing with important issues
sini-20028 February 2018
I rewatched this movie for the second time and I still can't believe it was made in 1985 and it's still as relevant today as it was in the 80's. This movie was ahead of its time and is too underrated. I absolutely love the take on Omar and Johnny, and their blossoming romance among the other plot. I just love how they don't bother explaining about their relationship, it' just is there, like in many movies with romantic plot lines. Great movie, everyone should see this. And I loved the ending.
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Brilliant British cult classic
stephparsons10 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
My Beautiful Launderette is an inspired movie and a perfect example of how the British manage to make brilliant, (fairly) low-budget movies. Gorden Warnecke plays Omar Ali, the go-getting son of an alcoholic Pakistani father and Daniel Day-Lewis is 'Johnny', an 'ex-thug' who is Omar's on again/off again lover. Launderette could be interpreted as a film about racism, implied homophobia, and the British class system and does indeed comprise all these themes but without offering answers, without passing judgement, without obvious heroes and/or villains and with a minimal pity quotient for those who get the bad end of the stick.

The plot is simple, and almost incidental to the movie, but does provide a good vehicle for the more obvious subjects covered. Omar's Uncle, a seemingly successful businessman, offers Omar a fruitless, failing, shabby, thug-filled launderette to run, maybe as a test of the boy's ambition and drive, and as a favour to Omar's father. Johnny, being on the dole, and having just been kicked out of his lodgings for, one presumes, some nefarious, petty crimes, hooks up once more with Omar and together they get to work beautifying the launderette. There is much irony in Launderette, including the fact that Johnny has only just broken away from the brutish gang of disaffected, unemployed, racist youth and, despite being in love with Omar all along, participated readily in racist attacks and, along with his fellow hooligans, referred to all Asians as 'Pakis'. This classic film paints a very accurate picture of the British recession in the mid 80s which gave rise to an 'underclass' of sorts, who either couldn't find work, or didn't want to work and quite gladly lived 'on the dole' for months or years. The unemployed white youth provide an obvious contrast to the hard working Asians, giving rise to an illogical, but all too real phenomenon of resentment toward the Asians who 'have taken all the jobs'. Another striking contrast is that between Omar and Johnny; Omar's ambitiousness and Johnny's lack of a work ethic, Omar's ethnicity and Johnny's erstwhile racism; Omar's optimism (almost verging on naivety) and Johnny's jaded, indifferent disposition. Launderette also astutely demonstrates the disparity between the older and younger Asian generations; the 'elders' having been raised in almost certain hardship in Pakistan, immigrating to England, finding jobs, working hard and making money, while their children grow up in England, in the midst of a recession and have the same jaded, cynical views on work and society as their white counterparts. Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal as the conflicted Johnny who may appear to be a mindless, lazy, none too bright, trouble-making ruffian but doesn't really care about risking the destruction of his 'bad boy' reputation when he shows such sensitivity to Omar and thoroughly immerses himself in the challenge of revamping the launderette. It is at this point that we see what power Omar has over Johnny and they fall into a virtual boss/unpaid employee role. The irony is that Omar's extended family may appear to be successful but much of their power and wealth comes through the dodgy dealings of Omar's cousin Salim, the 'cool' and brutish 'king pin', played excellently by Derrick Branche. Salim is the one with, supposedly, all the 'power'. But his money and 'power' within his Pakistani community mean little in the end. Racism prevails and he is just another 'Paki' at the mercy of vicious louts.

My Beautiful Launderette is bleak yet hopeful, brutal yet sensitive, optimistic yet dispiriting. It offers more questions than it proffers answers, illustrates the brutal pointlessness of racism without presenting any solutions or any justice for its victims. It is objective, unsentimental, intelligent and captivating and I believe it deserves to be regarded as a classic of our times.
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Not just a gay love story!
metalheadmichelle5 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This film works on a number of different levels. Firstly, there is the love affair between the two main characters, Omar and Johnny, brought to life by brilliant performances from both Gordon Warnecke and Daniel Day-Lewis. The audience remains mostly in the dark about the history shared by the lovers... were they lovers before their chance meeting and subsequent re-discovery or were they just friends as children and lovers as adults? Clearly, though, there has always been a close bond between the two which has remained in tact, even after Johnny had abandoned his friend to join a group of Neo-Nazis. This is where the real complexities of the story lie. The fact that Omar and Johnny embark on a gay love affair seems almost incidental. Rather, it is the power relations between the two that is important. Class, ethnicity, kinship and community are central in shaping the way in which each character perceives their role within the world. Thatcherism and the 'entrepreneurial spirit' has fuelled Omar's ambition to make something of himself in 80s Britain. Conversely, Johnny seems to have resigned himself to his downtrodden status since society has done nothing to help him, so why should he do anything for society? Thus, class is very much an issue here. Ethnicity, too, is key, as the roles of the downtrodden and oppressed seem to have been reversed, with the white, working-class Johnny being the 'victim' of the system rather than the Pakistani, middle-class Omar. Despite all of the differences, however, essentially it is their love for each other that keeps them together. There are occasions when Omar questions whether he and Johnny can really be together in the long-term, such as when he contemplates marriage, whilst Johnny seems to be subordinate, almost passive, towards Omar because of his love for him. Despite all of their differences they both seem to have a profound respect for one another, which will hopefully enable them to continue their relationship, although the ending is left rather open. The main thing when watching this is to view it not only as a gay love story. It also provides a snapshot of 80s Britain and an illustration of the fluidity of identity, and of the different life chances that people had, which is clearly still as relevant today as it was back then.
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A Pleasant Surprise
raptors24 January 2006
We saw this movie when it was first released on the big screen. It just happen to start when we needed a movie to so we had no idea what to expect. What a pleasant surprise this film was. Daniel Day Lewis (in one of his earliest roles) stars with Gordon Warnecke in this unconventional love story. Warnecke plays young Omar, who is given the opprtunity to run his uncle's laundrette. He enlists the aid of his ex-lover, Johnny (played by Lewis) to get the business back on it's feet. The scene in the laundrette that includes Omar and Johnny in the foreground and Omar's uncle and his mistress in the background, is one of the most sensual celluloid scenes I ever scene.

If you are looking for something good and out of the ordinary, I would recommend this one.
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multicultural gay love story
SnoopyStyle19 January 2016
Johnny Burfoot (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a squatter in rundown abandoned houses. Hussein "Papa" Ali gets his son Omar a job with his successful uncle Nasser at his car wash. Papa is a drunken disillusioned socialist reporter from Bombay. Omar gets hassled by a group of whites but he is saved by their leader Johnny who is his childhood friend. Nasser lets Omar manage the run down laundrette. Omar hires Johnny to work for him.

Director Stephen Frears brings some of the new Pakistani flavor into his London movie. I don't think Gordon Warnecke is particularly nuanced and is not really leading man material. Frears has the great fortune of casting Daniel Day-Lewis. He's wonderful and so is Roshan Seth. The look is more or less TV production level. This has some very compelling scenes dealing with very serious issues.
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A classic well ahead of its time totally underrated
robhingston8 August 2020
I feel sorry for anyone who doesn't appreciate what a classic this is because this is a total game changer, Being ahead of its time is an understatement this movie is light years ahead of its time. The movie isn't pretentious and it's not filtered, I would go as much to say that this is a classic
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This is a difficult movie to love because all the characters are so difficult to like.
planktonrules17 December 2013
This movie is quintessentially 1980s Britain. The look, the music, the people and the love of money--all stereotypes of the 80s. However, what is NOT the essence of the 80s is that the film is about Pakistanis who live in the UK and are becoming wealthy at the expense of everything else--this is unique to this film. What is also very unique is that later in the film there is a gay subplot--something that came as a bit of a surprise as homosexuality wasn't often talked about in the 80s--at least not compared to today.

The film is about a young and very money-hungry man, Omar. And, to help him earn his fortune, he goes to work for his even more money-hungry uncle. The uncle, either to test him or to punish him, gives him the unenviable job of running a crappy laundromat. And, through some very underhanded means, Omar and his friend Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis) make the place a success. But, this is only at the midway point in the film--what's next? Well, see it is it sounds like your sort of thing.

While I appreciated the risks the film took and its unusual plot, I found the movie pretty awful. No one was the least bit likable and I just didn't care about any of these soulless jerks. As social commentary, the film does work--as entertainment, it doesn't.
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" In this Damned Country, that we hate and love...."
tim-764-29185611 June 2012
So says Saeed Jaffrey, easily one of the most recognisable Indian actors, at the film's start and sets the tone for this early Film 4 offering from 1985 as the wheeler-dealer uncle, and who typified Thatcherism's era of entrepreneurial immigrants.

Radio Times awards a rare five stars for this provocative and ground- breaking film from the now hugely successful director, now, of Stephen Frears and of course, for Daniel Day Lewis, it might have been his last, presumably such a contentious issue inter-racial gay sex would have been seen (and still viewed as), had he not been both brave AND very good.

This was just Frear's second feature film and whilst today the production values lag, many of the scenes are (necessarily?) contrived and the acting variable, it still says a lot. Lest we forget, launderettes were actually in wide existence then, romanticised by jeans adverts and featuring regularly in TV soap Eastenders. If that last bit sounds pedantic, Eastenders itself was seen as ground-breaking and immensely popular, with ratings in the 10s of millions.

Saeed's hypocritical (he has a white mistress) Nasser only hands over the laundrette to his nephew (Omar) because he's too lazy to run it himself and it's a thorn in his side. Omar, being one of Thatcher's mass army of 3 million unemployed takes to the challenge and equally unemployed white, former National Front member Johnny (Day-Lewis), a schoolfriend of Omar's get drafted in to help refit the run-down laundrette and to turn it into a Palace full of washing machines.

As you can imagine, Johnny's past friends find much to dislike about the company he now keeps, especially as he's been to prison for his past activities and now is not only only cohorting with the Front's seen enemy but having unbridled, active sex with one who is the same sex. Issues around the pressure for Omar to get married, by arrangement are very relevant, both as in being Pakistani and homosexual.

For my money, there are just too many small characters, doing little things that we never see again; they do not contribute to the film and if anything, dissolve its strengths. I'm also not keen on Gordon Warnecke's (Omar) performance, his monosyllabic recital of his lines show no depth. Omar may actually have spoken like that but it fails to convince.

The romance element is boosted by the way that the refurbished laundrette is to be launched as a dreamy magical palace, with a razzle- dazzle showbiz look and can be seen as the aspiration for people who have little to make a life for themselves.

I first saw My Beautiful Laundrette about when it was released and knew friends in the gay community - and have watched the DVD a couple of times since. Those friends saw it more of a championing beacon to their cause and lifestyle and less of a political and economic barometer. Almost no such films were made almost thirty years ago and whilst I'm sure many did just see it as a pro-gay drama, that it was (and remains) a good film is a huge bonus.
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Really good and kinda abstract
snowyprecipice26 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Starring a very young and dashing Daniel Day-Lewis and an relatively unknown but charming Gordon Warnecke, this is a movie set in the 1980s in the UK and deals with the issues of that time. It's a very subtle film that keeps you pondering what the characters are thinking and why they do the things they do. The two leads are very good-looking (together, too) and share a certain chemistry that's very at ease and comfortable, much like their relationship. No budding romance, they kind of just meld together and deal with the things that happen in the film.

Mostly it deals with race issues and subtle homophobia. Omar (Warnecke) is smart and rather cunning, trying to make the business his uncle gives him successful. He employs a childhood friend and street punk (who he hasn't seen since he left school), Johnny (Day-Lewis) to help him run the business and deal with the riff-raff. The two have to deal with the expectations of Omar's family and the snide remarks Johnny's street "friends" make about him working for a Paki.

(Also, some people who watched the film got confused about Tania's role in all this?? I thought it was obvious. She made advances on Omar but didn't get any reaction. Omar gets pressured to ask for her hand in marriage from his family, but nothing really comes of it. Johnny gets jealous and goes gallivanting with Tania to make Omar jealous. But all this happens in a very quiet way i.e. their intentions aren't clear unless you think about it. In the end Tania realizes they only have eyes for each other and she was kind of a pawn in their plans)

I can't help but add that the two leads are super hot together. I like the secondary and tertiary characters too. The film feels very real and believable. Kind of slice of life but bigger.
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He'll go to college
Noir-It-All8 February 2006
"He'll (Omar) go to college and study. He must. We all must. So we can see clearly who is doing what to whom." This is the view of Poppa, Omar's father. This bedridden man is an ex-journalist from Pakistan who has lived to see his wife throw herself in front of the trains that rattle incessantly outside his flat and his own students march past with National Front. To top it off, his younger brother, Nasser, who carried his typewriter when they were boys back in Pakistan, has become the "Sardou of South London," a big enough cheese to give his own son a failed laundrette to run. "Government grant." But, Uncle Nasser has a chink in his armor, too: will his relationship with his mistress, Rachel, last as long as that with his wife? Both brothers look to a union between Omar and Tania, yep, Nasser's daughter, as the key to the future of their band of Pakistani immigrants in a land that doesn't want them. Will these energetic offspring comply with their plans? Omar seems closer to the randy and remorseful Johnny than anyone. Smart cookie that she is, Tania packs her belongings in her Princess suitcase and...Everyone has a decision to make in this fascinating sociological study of Thatcherite England. Wonder what everyone is doing now?
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Fascinating look at different classes
rosscinema7 January 2003
As terrific as Daniel Day-Lewis is in this film it really belongs to actor Gordon Warnecke as Omar. Watching his character change and also keep secrets at the same time is very complex and he handles it smoothly. This film really isn't about any one thing in particular but it does a great job of showing us how difficult things are in Britain between not only the races but the rich and poor classes as well. And oh yeah, the two characters are gay. Excellent character development on all sides. Rita Wolf as Tania stands out as well. Film ends on an ambiguous note letting the viewer soak in what they had just seen. Film is very powerful even without trying to say anything.
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