Dirty Pretty Things

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Movie Review by EDF

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, Sergi López, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Wong
Director: Stephen Frears

2002 has seen the release of a variety of British movies of varying quality from the likes of the low budget werewolf movie DOG SOLDIERS to ABOUT A BOY gaining success in the U.K. On paper DIRTY PRETTY THINGS’ subject matter might not impress the average moviegoer even though it is directed by the reliable Stephen Frears whose last movie HIGH FIDELITY was successful. What some people might not know is that the script is from Steven Knight, a co-creator of TV series WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? In theory this should not work but Knight has written for BBC comedies in the past, so will his first screenplay live up to expectations? Well, since this is the only screenplay chosen unanimously by the judge’s panel of The Script Factory, this is probably the best British movie released this year.

London, like any other capital city, has a secret underworld that most people do not get to see. Tourists definitely don’t get to see it, local residents know it exists but choose not to get involved and others find themselves in the thick of it. DIRTY PRETTY THINGS centres on immigrants, both legal and illegal, who do the sort of jobs that, make them invisible to everybody else. Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a Nigerian illegal, works two jobs, taxi driver by day and hotel receptionist at night. He rents a couch from his Turkish co-worker Senay (Audrey Tautou) and even though she is constantly harassed by the Department of Immigration, she does not throw him out.

One night Okwe makes a startling discovery when he finds a human heart in one of the hotel rooms. He is quickly talked out of approaching the police with the evidence by the money loving hotel owner Sneaky (Sergi Lopez) who wakes Okwe up to the fact that the police would only be interested in Okwe’s residency status than the crime itself. Too proud to just sit back and do nothing, Okwe investigates where the heart came from and uncovers an even more seedy side to the hotel other than the prostitutes operating in the place.

This movie works on a number of different levels. It is part dark thriller, part love story and an eye opener for those who think they know what London is about. You feel sympathy for the immigrant’s plight, as all they are trying to do is to make a living so that they can carry on with their lives. Okwe is an interesting character whose different layers become evident as the story unfolds and Chiwetel Ejiofor gives what is probably the best performance I have seen on screen all year. Frears direction brings out the loneliness facing the major characters as they know they will never be accepted into society. The fact that the main character is an illegal immigrant already means that from the start he is already at a disadvantage but this engrossing movie will make you feel like you are taking the journey along with him.

6 out of 6 stars