Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

United Kingdom 2003
Directed by
Stephen Frears
97 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

Dirty Pretty Things

Synopsis: Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor), an illegal Nigerian immigrant with a secret past drives cabs and works as a night porter in a London hotel. When a human heart is found blocking a toilet in one of the rooms, it would seem dastardly doings are afoot. Teaming up with Turkish asylum seeker and room-maid, Senay, (Audrey Tautou), Okwe finds himself drawn deeper into a nasty business run by Spanish hotel manager, Senor Juan, aka Sneaky (Sergi Lopez).

Director Frears gives us a refreshingly different type of film, a sad and sordid tale of criminal exploitation, interwoven with a refugee story. Recent documentaries have revealed the lengths to which desperate illegal immigrants will go to get a passport, or stay in a country and, without revealing what actually is going on in the hotel, suffice to say the plot is grounded in current events.

Because of this very dark underbelly of the refugee crisis only recently coming to light, Dirty Pretty Things has a fresh feel. We see a different London, through the eyes of a new underclass. Its billing as a thriller however is a little over-hyped – it really is more about the loneliness, fear and desperation of forgotten individuals in a big city. Despite this, however, there are some very tense and exciting moments. The elegant hotel scenes are juxtaposed with the harsh reality in which the characters exist. The characteristic anonymity of hotels serves well as a metaphorical framing device for the necessarily deceptive lives the main characters lead, and Frears adeptly integrates these threads. A concentration on interior shots creates a sense of the oppression, helplessness and closing in of the world around the characters.

The range of nationalities represented by the main characters adds to the film’s interest. Alongside the three central characters there is Chinese morgue worker Guo Yi (Benedict Wong), Russian doorman Ivan (Zlatki Buric) and London-born prostitute of immigrant origin, Juliette (Sophie Okonedo). All are people of the shadows, desperate to make ends meet and all are involved in subservient roles, either servicing others or cleaning up after them. Ejiofor is terrific as Okwe, displaying a deep integrity and humanity and Tautou gives a far more rounded and deep characterisation than her well-known role in Amélie. Because both are so believable, we rapidly engage with their plight and feel strongly for the tragedy of their vulnerability to exploitation.

Dirty Pretty Things neatly blends contemporary human interest issues with a taut and gripping plot. And, thankfully, it doesn’t try to neatly tie up the loose ends.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst