My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

Directed by Stephen Frears
Written by Hanif Kureishi

Nasser Ali—Saeed Jaffrey
Hussein (Papa) Ali—Roshan Seth
Johnny—Daniel Day-Lewis
Omar Ali—Gordon Warnecke
Salim Ali—Derrick Branche
Tania Ali—Rita Wolf
Cherry Ali—Souad Faress
Genghis—Richard Graham
Rachel—Shirley Anne Field
Jamaican One—Winston Graham
Jamaican Two—Dudley Thomas
Bilquis—Charu Bala Chokshi
Nasser’s Elder Daughter—Persis Maravala

Set in multi-cultural London during the years of conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, My Beautiful Laundrette examines generational conflict, gender and sexuality, power relations among individuals and groups, and the place of the individual within the family and within the larger community. Through its examination of class conflict, the film presents a critique of Thatcher’s conservative economic policies that promised so much but delivered so little, especially to the working and lower classes. The Pakistani Ali family settles in London, where they open a laundromat. Their son Omar learns the business and falls in love with Johnny. The idea of assimilation, both for the Pakistani Omar and the working class Johnny, against the backdrop of an every-changing, dynamic culture raises intriguing questions in a narrative that is sometimes funny, sometimes romantic, but always moving and thought-provoking.

Consider how the film develops its themes and provides a strong sense of time, place, and social critique through it structure—through juxtaposing the stories of its various characters. Think about how crosscutting and parallel editing, as well as point of view focalization work to heighten the interplay among characters, their perceptual experiences, and the similar and contrasting experiences they have in London of the 1980s. How might this structure create a dialectical interplay, of sorts, among various moods and themes?

Consider the ways in which lighting, color, set design, and shot composition, particularly the frame-within-the frame image construction, conveys something about the characters, their circumstances, and their relationships at key moments in the narrative.

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