Running Time: 107 mins
Dirty Pretty Things is a film about the illegal immigrants working in the underbelly of London's service economy. Set inone of thosemid-market hotels ubiquitous in London, the story centers on two hotel employees. The Nigerian night clerk, Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who works so constantly that he must chew a narcotic plant to keep awake, and Senay, a Pakistani housekeeper (Audrey Tatou), who dreams of a better life in America. Together these two dodge immigration officers, negotiate their way past modern Uriah Heaps, and finally find themselves caught up inextricably with a black-market gang brokering the sale of human organs.
The contradiction in the awkward title underlines the recurring theme of the film. From the opening scene, (Dirty Pretty) things are rarely what they seem, and judging a book by its cover almost always gets it wrong. As we try to follow the misdirection, Dirty Pretty Things takes us on an entertaining, suspenseful and ultimately heart-wrenching ride. The improbable, impossible love story between two immigrants struggling to survive through each bleak day is a remarkably touching story with an ending Hollywood executives must have hated.
Not surprisingly, Stephen Frears handles the depiction of the seedy, underside of London's immigrant communities deftly and without much preachy social commentary. He lets the accuracy of the characters stand for their plight. Frears draws a Bafta/Oscar worthy performance from Ejiofor. Tatou, in her first English language film, leaves behind the cutesy angst of her title role in Amelie and does a splendid job as Senay. However, be forewarned, Frears also deals frankly and explicitly with prostitution, the sexual exploitation of illegal workers, as well as the gory reality of human organ trade.
Harden Grace is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.