Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dirty Pretty Things (Frears, 2002)

Though billed as a thriller (and with a DVD cover that suggests an 'erotic thriller'), Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things is actually a sociological 'problem picture' that uses sparse and undeveloped (not to be confused with 'underdeveloped') genre tropes to try to create an immediacy paralleling the desperate situations of its characters. Whether the thriller aspects are even remotely necessary is debatable, but thankfully they don't deflate the film's themes or detract attention away from the other aspects.

Like the people visiting the hotel at which they work, Okwe and Senay are in a state of transition, only on a grander scale. The hotel is a direct but not overstated metaphor for the country the two immigrants live in: they checked in for a while, but they're going to have to leave sometime. Neither are legally entitled to work, but legality doesn't mean much in the underworld the film depicts. Okwe is a kind of benevolent entrepreneur of this London underground, making rounds during the day to various locations, dispensing Amoxicillin for men who refuse to go to the hospital (out of embarrassment, perhaps) and other such gestures. Senay has an apartment, and she rents her couch to him, though he rarely sleeps as a result of some sort of root he chews on. At first she refuses to be there when he is, but eventually allows him. She loves him, but they're too busy surviving to develop a relationship.

At a point, Okwe finds a heart in a toilet. He begins playing detective, but in a muted, believable form. When he finds out that kidneys are being removed by an untrained person in the hospital in exchange for passports, it is just a simple revelation, not some Soylent Green-esque foolishness. Basically, the film has the shape of a thriller but doesn't indulge in it fully, to its benefit. Okwe was a doctor in Africa, but refused to destroy evidence and his house was firebombed, killing his wife. He was charged with the murder and fled, which is how he ended up here. As a physician, he is actually qualified to perform the operations, and is again approached to make a choice of doing the 'wrong' thing, with severe consequences if he doesn't (in this case, continuing living in fear of being deported and therefore arrested, and keeping Senay in the same situation). It is explained to him that Señor Juan gets paid, the donor gets a passport, the kidney's receiver gets a kidney, and everyone wins. But exploitation is still exploitation, and Okwe can't come to terms with being involved in it.

What he ends up doing is exploiting the former exploiter, taking Juan's kidney and selling it. He splits the money between him, Senay, and the prostitute Juliette. The doctor prescribed Juan a taste of his own medicine! (sorry). Anyway, this seems to be a triumph, but in the end Okwe and Senay must part. They whisper 'I love you" as Senay leaves on a plane and all that hokey stuff. Okwe has to go find his daughter in Africa, and at this point the film ends. It's assumed that they will reunite later, and live happily and things.

Dirty Pretty Things is a decent film. Nothing revelatory (immigrants can be exploited!?), and a bit dramatically blasé at times. Solid without being remarkable.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before I saw this I had no idea immigrants could be exploited either. A was just like watching Crash which told me racism is bad :O

6:23 AM  
Blogger Nikolus Ziegler said...

Whoa, hold on. Racism is what???

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Qrazy said...

I agree with your assessment of DPT.

2:14 AM  
Anonymous Q said...

Hey now, less schoolwork more blogging. For shame. For shame.

5:02 PM  

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