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Dirty Pretty Things


Year: 2002 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Dirty Pretty Things offers a rich and realistic portrayal of the experience of illegal immigrants in a supposedly tolerant, multicultural society - a subject woefully under-represented in mainstream film today. Set in London, the story centres around Okwe (Ejiofor), an enigmatic but morally upright Nigerian doctor who drives a cab by day and works the night shift at the front desk of a hotel of questionable repute. Okwe develops a close relationship with fellow illegal Senay (Tautou), who works in the hotel as a maid and lets him sleep on her couch, something which attracts the attention of immigration officials. When Okwe discovers an organ-selling ring being run out of the hotel, his boss (López) wants to capitalise on Okwe’s medical experience and tries to blackmail him into becoming involved.

From there, the film briefly goes into almost Hollywood-style caper territory as Okwe and Senay hatch a plan to attempt escape from their impossible situation. The film skilfully conveys the difficulty of building a life as a member of this invisible illegal underclass, cut off as they are from the services that most of us take for granted, forced into unpleasant and hugely underpaid labour regardless of their previous education and occupations, and made vulnerable to the black market types who prey on their tenuous social positions.

Ejiofor’s presence as Okwe is dignified and understated and Tautou is excellent as the Turkish maid who is far more resilient than her innocent exterior would have us believe. The great cast is rounded out by Sophie Okonedo as one of the hotel’s frequent prostitute guests, Benedict Wong as Okwe’s friend and medical supply connection whose detached bemusement provides the film’s funniest material, and the terrifically sleazy Sergi López, who practically oozes as the callous hotel boss.

It shouldn’t be this rare or remarkable to see such a plurality of faces and experiences given a voice on film. It shouldn’t be, but sadly it is.

Robert Gordon

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Screenings of this film:

2002/2003 Summer Term (35mm)