MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE
Review by Gordon Justesen
Jaffrey, Roshan Seth, Daniel Day-Lewis, Gordon Warnecke, Shirley Anne Field
Director: Stephen Frears
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.66:1
Features: See Review
Length: 98 Minutes
Release Date: July 21, 2015
ďA laundrette as big as the Ritz. Oh yes.Ē
My Beautiful Laundrette is a film credited with making big names of two particular individuals. The first is director Stephen Frears who, up until this filmís initial release in 1985, had been making films for a while but which were all low key. The other is an actor by the name of Daniel Day-Lewis, who would go on to be one of the most brilliant and acclaimed actors of our time.
Frears has since become one of the more intriguing British filmmakers, with films ranging from classy drama (Dangerous Liaisons, The Queen) to dark thriller (Mary Reilly, Dirty Pretty Things) to two classic John Cusack gems (The Grifters, High Fidelity). But no matter which genre he was tackling, Frears always maintained strength in distinctive character observations. This film, considered his breakthrough, is a definitive example of that.
From a script written by Hanif Kureishi, a British-born writer of Pakistani descent, the film examines themes of class, race and sexuality in what was then known as Thatcherís Britain. The story focuses on Omar (Gordon Warnecke), himself a Brit of Pakistani descent, a young and unemployed lad who is given a one time chance at running a business by his Uncle Nasser (Saeed Jaffrey). The business in question is a beat down laundromat located in Londonís south side.
Omar is so determined to make his first major business venture a success that he enlists the aid of former schoolmate Johnny (Day-Lewis), whoís now affiliated with nefarious sorts, to engage in some criminal activity in order to attain cash simply to get the laundromat up and running. What Omar doesnít quite expect is just how deep and intimate his relationship with Johnny really runs. Itís a surprise to the viewer when this is revealed, and Iím sure many were stunned 30 years ago when the film was first released, but Frears is smart in presenting this interracial love affair between two men not to stir up a political issue, but simply in a natural, matter of fact fashion.
Much like the films that lay ahead in Frearsí filmography (including the recent and totally riveting Philomena), My Beautiful Laundrette is a purely insightful character driven film with strong performances across the board. Daniel Day-Lewis is providing supporting work here, but in his portrayal of Johnny, you do get a glimpse of the masterful and iconic actor he would become in the years that followed. If you admire either Day-Lewis or the unique body of work to come from Stephen Frears, this is a neat gem of a film worth discovering if you havenít yet.
Shot on 16mm, the film gets a most terrific 2k restoration for this Criterion Blu-ray release. Though the format does lead to soft and periodically grainy imagery, the picture quality is nonetheless top of the line and really does enhance and make London for this time period even more authentic, be it during daytime or the late of night. 16mm film is tricky when it comes to being mastered properly, but Criterion gets the job, as always.
The PCM mono mix is superbly effective in the delivery of dialogue, which is the main attraction. In addition, occasional music playback is sharply handled too, courtesy of an eccentric score by Ludus Tonalis (which are two composers, one of which being none other than Hans Zimmer).
Some terrific Criterion features starting with a most wonderful and lengthy conversation piece with Stephen Frears and film producer and scholar Colin MacCabe. There are also new interviews with writer Hanif Kureishi, producers Tim Bevan and Sarah Radclyffe, and finally one with cinematographer Oliver Stapelton. Rounding out the package is the filmís Trailer and an insert featuring an essay by critic Graham Fuller.
My Beautiful Laundrette is a potent product of its time, and a pivotal point in the careers in both director Stephen Frears and actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Criterion has worked their Blu-ray magic yet again on a unique and original 80s gem.