Directed by Stephen Frears
Written by Steve Knight
Produced by Robert Jones and Tracey Sea
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, Sergi López,
Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Wong and Zlatko Buric
Opens at the Broadway
in England risk their lives selling their bodily organs for passports.
the ad campaign for "Dirty Pretty Things" takes advantage
of the film's ambiguous, sexy-sounding title, it's actually
a political peice about illegal immigrants in England.
This isn’t something they’d likely want to do if conditions
weren’t overly oppressive in their respective motherlands.
And yet, for various reasons, the government doesn’t grant
them citizenship. Stephen Frears’s politically charged “Dirty
Pretty Things” uses these issues as the backdrop for a personal
story about people living in harsh conditions.
harsh that the main character doesn’t sleep through the whole
film. Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor) drives a cab by day and works a hotel’s
front desk at night, eating a stimulant herb to stay awake. He knows
how bad this is for his health because he was a doctor in his former
country, Nigeria. His cab manager asks him for help curing STDs,
but the hotel is the real medical nightmare.
star Audrey Tatou plays Senay, a Turkish immigrant who works the
day shift in the hotel, even though her papers require that she
not work for six months. She lets Okwe use her room as a rest stop,
but remains very secretive about it due to her religious beliefs.
Luczyc-Wyhowski’s production design and Chris Menges’s
low-key cinematography help create the hotel’s sleazy feel.
Prostitutes make the rounds and the doorman has his own business
interests, including keeping room service going after the kitchen
closes by making the sandwiches himself.
real source of evil, however, is the hotel manager, Sneaky (Sergi
López of “With a Friend Like Harry…”),
whose shady dealings become clearer and clearer as the truth unfolds,
starting when Okwe, on a prostitute’s tip, finds a heart in
a clogged toilet in one of the rooms.
assumes that a murder took place, but can’t call the cops
himself. When Sneaky hears the news, he surprises Okwe by caring
little and doing nothing. As it becomes clearer what’s happening,
Okwe is powerless to stop it because of his status.
the same time, Senay faces investigation from immigrant officials
who suspect that she’s been working. Tatou creates sympathy
for her character, whose labor restrictions clash with financial
and moral problems. This surprising performance is her most complete
and impressive one since “Amelie.”
friend Guo Yi (Benedict Wong), who has a job in the hospital morgue,
acts as an aid to Okwe and Senay and provides humanity to contrast
with Sneaky’s opportunistic exploits as well as success to
counter the suffering of so many of the other characters.
great Frears has made several impressive films in his time, exploring
political topics in works like “Sammy and Rosie Get Laid,”
but also grasping personal relationships in BBC play productions
and great films like “High Fidelity” and “The
Grifters.” The latter film explores a tragedy-fated underworld
very different from that in “Dirty Pretty Things,” but
similar with its desperate characters facing dilemmas.
refuses to help Sneaky with the surgeries because it’s unethical
and illegal, but at the same time, he’d be ensuring the willing
victims better health for them than if they were to undergo the
unsanitary operation, when they would inevitably give up their organs.
film also deals with love and romance and how unlikely they are
in situations in which one has to struggle all day to survive.
Ejiofor and the other actors keep some of the more preachy material
from going over the top, playing it low-key for added emotional
impact instead of over-playing the scenes and becoming comical.
Instead, the characters create an emotional platform from which
the real political situation can be examined.