My Beautiful Laundrette

My Beautiful Laundrette ★★★★★

Stephen Frears and Hanif Kureishi are a match made in heaven. Whenever Kureishi’s clever, complex writing steps back, Frears jumps in with some genuinely surprising filmmaking. He borrows freely from the kitchen-sink-realist approach, but the film is also loaded with brief, otherworldly moments—moments that, whether through editing, music, or shot composition, brush up against a happiness or sense of the sublime just out of its characters’ reach. 

My Beautiful Laundrette touches on so many things—capitalism, race, sexuality, sexuality in the context of race, race in the context of sexuality, immigration, friendship—without actually being about any of those things. Films about issues have their place, to be sure. But they also lean towards didacticism, simplicity, and an annoying sense of the inevitable. Kureishi never steps in that arena. The film is, above all else, about its characters and their conflicts with themselves, others, and their immediate environment. There is probably a lot of significant Thatcher criticism buried somewhere in all this, too, but I’m not quite qualified to go there. All I know is that Johnny slyly licking Omar’s neck is cinema at its best.

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