I just rewatched My Beautiful Laundrette, ostensibly for a Valentine's review of stories about love. Sadly, I've just realised that this film is not about love very much at all, other than my own love for Daniel Day Lewis (a love so great that my bestest uni friend Frances and I once stayed up until 3.30am to watch this very film, even though we had to be up at 7.30am the next morning- we were so tired on our way to our lecture that we had to keep stopping to laugh, cause we didn't have the energy to do both at once!). Anyway, I've watched it now, so I'll do my best to spin it into a love story for you... I'll just use a little artistic license!
So the film basically follows Omar (Gordon Warnecke) as he tries to negotiate the business world of his uncle, whilst simultaneously trying to keep his depressed, possibly alcoholic father happy. In fact, of all the things in his life, it seems to be that the least complicated of them all is his relationship with Johnny (Daniel Day Lewis). This relationship unfolds during the film, as Johnny seems to only be Omar's friend and colleague at first, but it suddenly, without warning, becomes clear that they are more than this when Johnny grabs and kisses Omar around the back of the laundrette (it's so classy). This is where the love kicks in, but also where it doesn't- there isn't really any mention of love at all between the two men, even though, I think it's clear, that they do and must love each other.
Johnny is probably my favourite character in this film, not only because Day Lewis just has so damn much charisma, but because he's so lost and vulnerable, and torn between a way of life that is easy but he knows is wrong, and one that is much harder, but that he wants. He is also, in a way that will tend to complicate his romance with a pakistani-english boy, a (hopefully) ex-member of the national front, an organisation whose ultimate goal would result in Omar's removal from the country. This tends to complicate things between the men, and means that they are never quite in the same place in their relationship- Omar wants to punish Johnny for his past actions, and Johnny still retains a certain amount of solidarity with his old, racist friends.
In spite of these differences, disputes and all the rest, there still remains something that appears unshakeable between Omar and Johnny. Perhaps because no one knows about the romantic relationship between them, or maybe just because they are really meant to be together, nothing seems to happen to irreparably damage that side of their relationship. Neo Nazis are defeated, cousins are deflected, and the one stable thing that remains is Johnny and Omar, seemingly together through whatever the world can throw at them. And they are apparently free to do this, in the film's odd and non-relational ending where the two men just splash each other at a sink as if Johnny hasn't just gotten beaten up by his friends, protecting a man he hates. It's almost as if, when they are together, all other problems become unimportant and trivial. Which, if it is not love, must be pretty close to it, for each other to be enough to make all the problems and cultural differences and everything just fade away to nothingness.
I feel that I have done My Beautiful Laundrette a little bit of a disservice in the way I have recapped it, because, trust me, there is far more to it than just love, there is culture and race and ideology and so much more all crammed into 90 minutes that you feel really intelligent for watching, understanding and analysing it at all (or, at least, I do!), so I urge you to see it if you haven't already! Apart from that, I just want to add two more things about Daniel Day Lewis, whom I adore so dearly. Firstly, that he has the absolute worst hair I have ever seen on anyone ever,
and, secondly, anyone who says they don't want Daniel Day Lewis to do this to them is clearly lying,
Happy nearly Valentine's Day...