Dirty Pretty Things

Review Date:
Director: Stephen Frears
Writer: Steve Knight
Producers: Robert Jones, Tracey Seaward
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Audrey Tautou
Sergi Lopez
An illegal immigrant in London, working a day job as a cab driver and a hotel clerk at nights, discovers a human heart stuck in the bottom of a hotel room toilet one night and worries about what goes on behind the closed doors of his hotel. In the meantime, he develops a friendship with an immigrant woman who is also just trying to get by as a maid in the hotel and a seamstress in a sweatshop. Dirty, pretty things ensue.
An intriguing film that effectively develops both a plotline about a pair of illegal immigrants in England as well as a mystery about a hotel, its patrons, missing organs, and yes…even slips in a love story. I thought this movie worked very well for the most part, particularly its entire “hotel underbelly” scenario, as well as its two lead actors, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tatou, both of whom provided a great sense of their respective characters while exuding chemistry between one another and as per the script, not giving everything about themselves away on the first page. That’s actually one of the things that I really liked about this movie-it’s ability to hold back, develop intrigue and drop little clues about both the hotel’s activities and the group of people involved…along the way. Like breadcrumbs. I appreciated the film’s voyeuristic aspect as well, with director Stephen Frears specifically filming a lot of scenes in hallways, small rooms and the sort. I also like how it was all set at night, when most people are sleeping (except certain webmasters with no lives and an inexplicable fear of light), the many references to death, the after-life and the way that it was shot, kind of like we were sneakily watching something that we should not be. The plot also revolved around a well-known urban legend, which added that much more “realism” to the story, especially for audience members who had ever thought of such a thing (guilty!) The film also featured a solid cast of secondary characters, all of whom helped the two leads make it all that much more enticing. Mr. Juan, played by actor Sergi Lopez, was one of my personal faves, a man whose sleaziness had no bounds and yet was somehow able to convince me of his more humanistic points of view at times.

But my favorite part of this film was lead actress Audrey Tatou, who actually plays second fiddle to Ejiofor here, but who did an excellent job of portraying an innocent, hopeful, Turkish immigrant just looking to make her own way in life. I, like many people, was impressed with Ms. Tatou in 2001’s breakout French hit AMELIE, but her first English performance here is also very good, restrained, yet authentic. She’s also damn cute which never hurts when staring at someone’s face for a little over an hour and a half. Ejiofor was also solid as the lead enigma, a man who starts off with little background, but who we slowly get to know, as layers of him get peeled off through every scene. The final shot of him is also a keeper. What didn’t work for me so much in this film was its pacing, which I thought felt a little tired at times, and had me wondering where it was all going, as well as its “love” story, which I didn’t particularly buy into. Yes, I definitely felt some chemistry between the two leads, a deeper caring for one another, but at no point did I really sense that they were “falling for” one another. Then again, maybe I’m just a cold, calculating, bitter film “critic” who has yet to discover the true meaning of love (except at the bottom of the proverbial bottle, of course) Seriously though, other than that, and truly, the pacing wasn’t so much of an issue most of the way, just spurts here and there, I really enjoyed this film’s foreboding, dark, mysterious nature overall, especially considering its central subject matter, which turned out to be deeper, darker issue altogether.

If moral dilemmas, mysteries, the underground world and a burgeoning friendship between two people stuck in similar circumstances interest you, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in this film. It also shows how much we Westerners take our freedoms for granted sometimes, while immigrants from other countries are willing to do almost anything just to get their feet in the door. So what happens when you go to sleep at nights? Many dirty and pretty things, my friends…many dirty and pretty things.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

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