Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. United Kingdom, 1985. Working Title Films, SAF Productions, Channel Four Films. Screenplay by Hanif Kureishi. Cinematography by Oliver Stapleton. Produced by Tim Bevan, Sarah Radcylffe. Music by Ludus Tonalis. Production Design by Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski. Costume Design by Lindy Hemming. Film Editing by Mick Audsley. Academy Awards 1986.
Omar (Gordon Warnecke) stays home and takes care of his alcoholic, disillusioned father (Roshan Seth) until an opportunity gets him out of his house: his successful business owner uncle (Saeed Jaffrey) installs him at his parking garage, which only inspires Omar’s ambitions in business further when he takes over the uncle’s laundromat and wants to make it a huge success. Reuniting with childhood friend Johnny (a dewy young Daniel Day-Lewis), they team up and turn the run-down shack into a beautiful, gleaming establishment that is the talk of the neighbourhood. It isn’t all work, however, as the personal seeps into the picture as well: Omar’s uncle has been having a years-long affair with his beautiful mistress (Shirley Anne Field), his cousin is a rebellious young woman looking to break out of her family’s traditional expectations for her, and, most importantly, Omar and Johnny are madly in love with each other. Then you add into the mix a shady relative whose drug money finances Omar’s dreams, combine it with uneasy (to say the least) Anglo-Indian relations that see a white, economically depressed population completely unwelcoming of what they see as opportunistic invaders (which only inspires a harsh perspective back at them) and you have a film that is brilliantly complicated and yet plays subtle and smooth. Director Stephen Frears and writer Hanif Kureishi manage to pack so much into one little film and never let it feel like its messages are hitting you over the head. England under Thatcher is laid bare without any kind of simplistic judgments, while the gay romance at the centre of it is sexy and lush without ever calling itself out as an important theme (which, for a movie made in 1985, is practically a miracle). Wonderful stuff, plus the performances are terrific.