Undocumented immigrants Okwe and Senay work at a posh London hotel and live in constant fear of deportation. One night Okwe stumbles across evidence of a bizarre murder setting off a series of events that could lead to disaster or freedom.
Okwe is an illegal Nigerian immigrant leading a hard life and struggling to survive in London's underground. He works as a hotel receptionist in the night time and as he has a doctor degree he practices some medicine, during the day, in a very odd way. Besides that he must constantly escape from Immigration officers. One day Okwe discovers by chance an illegal scheme of surgeries is being lead by Juan, his boss in the hotel. Juan quickly comes up with a tempting proposal: if Okwe accepts to perform the illegal surgeries he makes a lot of money and gets legalized situation in the U.K. Can Okwe keep his moral values intact?Written by
Larbi Dida & U Roy Life
Written by Larbi Dida / Ewart Beckford / Messonnier
Published by Delabel Editions and EMI Music Publishing Ltd
Courtesy of Virgin France See more »
There's lots for sale that shouldn't be
Stephen Frears is good at growing roses in unpromising surroundings, `My Beautiful Laundrette' being a good example. Here he tells the almost uplifting tale of Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a Nigerian doctor who has become an illegal immigrant to Britain, and his chaste relationship with a young virginal Turkish woman Senay (Audrey Tautou) whose aim is to join her sister in New York, where the policemen are on white horses and good jobs can be had for the asking . At the start of the film Okwe and Senjay are both working in the Baltic, an upmarket London hotel, he as the night desk clerk and she as a maid, sharing (by rotation) a tiny flat and doing their best to avoid the immigration police. Then one night Okwe discovers that the toilet of Room 510 is blocked with a human heart, and it seems that Sneaky the night manager who unaccountably drives a new Mercedes (Sergi Lopez) is deeply involved. Unfortunately he can't very well go to the cops, and Sneaky, when he finds out about Okwe's medical skills, tries to recruit him into the racket, which, without giving the game away, involves the sale of human organs. The squeamish are advised, by the way, to avert their eyes when the scalpels come out even properly conducted surgery can be a bloody business.
The film is very much about the plight of immigrants, especially illegal ones, to richer countries, where they slot in to all those menial low paid jobs the citizens of those countries don't want to do. In one of the few really comic moments of the film the entire workforce of a clothing sweatshop vanish from the premises with well-practiced haste as immigration officials approach the premises. Okwe makes a little speech late in the move about he and his fellow illegals doing all that stuff you don't notice unless it's not done, like cleaning and rubbish disposal, but Frears refrains from preaching, for the most part. What he has done is to present their plight in a compassionate manner and evoked the atmosphere of fear and despair that surrounds them.
A film like this requires good acting and Chiwetel Ejiofor, a Londoner with Nigerian parents, is excellent as Owke the doctor turned night clerk. Owke maintains his dignity and the audience's sympathy throughout. He has been to New York, in fact has worked there as a doctor, but he does not try to shatter Senay's dream of the Promised Land. Audrey Tautou is typecast as a young innocent (`Amelie' and `The Spanish Apartment') and it's not hard to see her as a Turkish virgin, but she here handles the maturing of her character very adroitly. I also liked Sergi Lopez's Sneaky, who was just nasty enough when it would have been easy to descend into caricature. Lopez certainly is versatile; he made a plausible lover in `L' Liasion Pornographique' and a very believable villain in `Harry, He's Here to Help'.
Above all, Frears has evoked the atmosphere of the illegal immigrant sub-culture in an honest fashion. It may be that the opening up of the labour markets of Western Europe with the enlargement of the European Union will squeeze out the illegal ones there will be fewer jobs for them, even of the most menial kind. The trade that Frears exposes may well get worse.
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