Dirty Pretty ThingsReviewed By Thom
Posted 07/18/03 15:35:14
What an amazingly powerful film. Stephen Frears takes two innocuous people and puts them in extraordinary circumstances. But they have been hardened by their experiences as undocumented workers in London so the daily struggle of living under the radar and the situations they left behind help them handle their situation well.Okwe is a Nigerian who everyone calls “the doctor”. He is living with a muslim woman named Senay played by Audrey Tautou. I had no idea that it was Audrey Tautou.
This is a superb film put together by a tremendously talented production team. Audrey Tautou is completely transformed from her role in Amelie. Chiwetel Ejiofor who plays Okwe gives a fine, subtle, nuanced performance. Okwe is a subtle, subdued character and in Ejiofor’s hands, the character stays in front of the scenery. Sophie Okonedo, an English actress, plays a hooker named Juliette. She plays a European hooker rather than the American version of cheap, stupid and trashy. She’s a professional who plies a trade, legally and in the open, but with discretion. You like her, she likes you. She’s not ashamed of what she does.
Senay is desperate to get to New York and feels trapped by her immigration status. She is not quite a legal worker but she’s getting there. She left Turkey and has no plans to return. She shares an apartment with Okwe but she won’t be in it with him while he is there so they stage this dramatic key-drop twice a day where they exchange the key without either looking at each other or touching each other. Okwe sleeps during the day, Senay at night. Senay is played by Audrey Tautou who shows us that she is indeed a professional actress and plays a completely different character than Amelie. Usually, when you watch a film you are looking for the character you loved that that actor has played before, rather than let the actor do their job and become someone else for the sake of the story. It is very common for actors to become typecast and for the audience to develop a relationship to that character AS the actor. You don’t see Tautou at all, or Amelie, you see Senay.
Curious things start happening around the hotel. Okwe finds a human heart in a toilet and when he starts to investigate, he is told to just look the other way. He can’t call the police because he works illegally. His boss knows this and takes advantage of the undocumented workers in his employ. But his boss is also running a horrible side business. Okwe’s boss is not worried that Okwe is putting the pieces together and tries to get him involved in the scheme.
Okwe finally relents when he has to choose between his freedom or Senay’s life. At some point, you know you’ve seen this movie this before and you wait for all the elements to come together. It is easy to sympathize with Okwe and Senay and the machine that comes together to save the underdogs isn’t played for cheers exactly, but for a morbid sense of justice.
I haven’t seen a movie in a while that I’ve cared this much about. As a film critic, the best I get is a terrific one-night stand and then its on to the next movie.This is exactly the kind of movie I love tucking in for at a cozy art-house theatre to wallow in the finer points of the human spirit. But then again, I’m a loner who likes to feel that deep connection to the human race in the safe confines of a darkened room because I don’t expect anyone else to feel as deeply or as profoundly as I do.
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