“My Beautiful Launderette” tells the story of Omar, a young guy who is taking care of his alcoholic father during that period in history when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister. People longed for financial success back then (the 80s), especially Asians (like Omar) who were living in England. Asians began their influx to England in the late 6os and 70s and they searched for their identity in a country that was their home but never really allowed them to feel at home.
Omar wanted both financial success and he wanted an identity and he worked at both. While he strove he runs into an old friend from school, Johnny, who had fallen under the influence of a group of Neo-Nazis. Omar brings him into the family business and the chemistry between the two soon accelerates. His gay relationship between the two is underplayed as if it were the most normal thing in the world (as it should be). Any tension in the film is not sexually related but political and socio-economic. The charm and the wit of the film mesmerize the viewer. Daniel Day-Lewis is just amazing as Johnny, he is an actor’s actor.
The film undertakes the difficult task of presenting important social issues without sacrificing entertainment and embraces a new kind of movie realism. Watching the two friends trying to make a go of a rundown launderette (a metaphoric look at the economy of Britain) sheds light on the state of downtrodden immigrants. The joining together of two opposing cultures, a Pakistani and a white “punk” also says tons about the British treatment of Asians. Ethnic problems create havoc for the two young men and racial tension is one of the major themes of the film. Even though the issues that are presented are major problems, they are handled with humorous wit and the film is quite funny and very serious at the same time. As an unconventional love story, it succeeds and as a political and economic statement it soars. “Launderette” is also very sensual without showing any actual sex and never exploits the gay subplot.
As I said before, Daniel Day-Lewis is sensational but it is Gordon Warnecke that owns this movie completely. Just watching his character change shows his brilliance at dealing with the complexities of life.
The ending of the film is quite ambiguous allowing the viewer to contemplate all that he has seen and its power rests on showing a great deal without really trying to moralize.
From what I have read about what was going on in London both economically and socially, the movie brilliantly depicts the situation. As it shows the feudal divide between the rich and the poor, it somewhat reminded me of the way things were once were (remember Dickens). We would have thought that modernism would have helped cure societal ills but according to the film things actually became worse. What we have with “Launderette” is a work of magic realism, in a portrait of London of the 80s replete with all of its ills.
Because the gay aspect of the film is not emphasized, the movie left me with several questions to consider. What was the nature of the boys’ relationship when they were younger? What happened to that relationship? What really brought the boys together and what factors contribute to Johnny’s acceptance of Omar and their final love and devotion to each other?
Questions like these and others are what make this film so interesting and it deserves at least one viewing if not more. I love movies that leave you thinking and this is exactly what “My Beautiful Launderette” does.