MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE

Director Stephen Frears’ “My Beautiful Laundrette” (1985), featured June & July (2022) on MGM HD, is a story of Britain in a time of radical social and economic transition. The movie follows the journey of a Pakistani Londoner named Omar (Gordon Warnecke) as he progresses from being a poor caretaker to an ailing family member to impresario of local laundrettes (or laundromats, as they’re called in America) in his working-class neighborhood. It’s a satire of class, politics, immigration, and manners in Thatcher-era England. But the central emotional core of the movie is the same-sex romance between Omar and his schoolboy friend turned neighborhood bully, Johnny, played by the great Daniel Day-Lewis in his first major screen role.

 

 

Warnecke’s Omar is a wide-eyed but-not-quite-as-innocent-as-he-looks young man who spends his days tending to his alcoholic socialist father, (Roshan Seth) a former journalist from Pakistan. Sent to work for his uncle Nasser (veteran actor Saeed Jaffery), Omar’s world opens up to the possibilities of a changing United Kingdom. In contrast to Omar’s father, Uncle Nasser has embraced capitalism with an immigrant’s zeal. His ownership of parking lots, tenement housing, and other various businesses have earned him a large house, upper class wealth, and allowed him to build a large business network for his family and friends. It is through this association that Omar comes into possession of his uncle’s rundown launderette which he views as his ticket to success.

 

 

Around this time Omar rekindles a relationship with Johnny, a local tough who leads a gang of punks who spend their days hanging around and menacing immigrants like Omar. However, unlike his cohorts, Johnny has heart and desire for a better life. It is immediately clear that the two men are attracted to each other, and the unlikely couple form a romantic and business partnership to renovate the launderette as the cornerstone of their burgeoning empire.

 

 

“My Beautiful Laundrette,” with its 98% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is a movie with several complex points to make. But perhaps its most lasting impact is its depiction of an unabashed LGBTQ+ relationship between its leads. Appropriate to the time, the characters attempt to keep their relationship secret, but the filmmakers do not flinch from showing the depth of their emotions to us, the audience. The movie does not condescend to them or us, rather, we see the characters for who they are and root for them against the odds. Day-Lewis, is a striking presence, his cool stillness a contrast to Warnecke’s jumpy boyishness. However, Day-Lewis displays his impressive range through his tenderness towards his lover and in his gradual softening as a character as the plot unfolds.

 

 

In the world depicted in “My Beautiful Laundrette,” power shifts, one class replaces another, and Britain’s once-colonized become the new colonialists. But miraculously and wonderfully, love in all its forms endures.

 

 

Drop by “My Beautiful Laundrette” June & July (2022) on MGM HD.