Stephen Frears is a film maker of distinction. It is his range that makes him such an impressive film maker; from ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ to ‘Philomena’ each film has something special about it.
‘Dirty Pretty Things’ is his film from 2002 starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as a Nigerian asylum seeker trying to work and survive in London on very little money. Audrey Tatou stars as the Turkish hotel cleaner he befriends and supports. Asylum seekers are the people at the edge of society, often invisible or doing jobs that put them in sight of, but ignored, by the majority of the population. What this film does so well is to show us the individuals with their thoughts and feelings. Stephen Frears provides characters so that the issues are personalised.
Oke, the main protagonist, is a doctor. There is no chance that he will be able to practise legally so when he does pick up a scalpel the reasons are to do with the thriller aspect of the film. It is poignant, nevertheless, as this is a man who had a vocation but whose circumstances are reduced. He works as a cab driver by day and a hotel porter at night. Most of the action takes place around the hotel where many immigrants, both legal and illegal, are employed.
The subject matter is a difficult one. The film includes the illegal trade in body organs, under the counter medicines, and the mistreatment of workers by exploitative bosses. This is a thriller, though, and the action is exciting; for these characters a lot is at stake. Whether they make it here or have to return is only revealed at the end.
‘Dirty Pretty Things’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?