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‘Dirty Pretty Things’ (2003)

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An amazing dark drama from England set largely in the world of illegal aliens living in London, and the things that come of it. It’s a story about the good individuals that are swallowed into the dirty underworld through the unfortunate situation taken advantage of, and about the personal fights against it. And beneath it are the relationships between them. ‘Dirty Pretty Things’ presents a cinematic ride through mystery, crime, love, and the unfortunate curcumstances of illegal immigrants trying to build a better life, or running from a life they can no longer live.

Okwe, played wonderfully by Chiwetel Ejiofor, resides as our central character and mystery, the venerable immigrant doctor who suspisciously lives now illegally in London struggling with hotel lobby and driver jobs to survive. Audrey Tautou plays her first major role to come to America since ‘Amelie’ (a fact flouted despite her presence not actually being the lead), and speaking English no less, as the muslim immigrant seeking asylum Senay, and friend of Okwe. Although not technically the same as the others, she, curiously enough, has a stringent set of rules by the immigration department, at threat of imprisonment, that put her in the same boat. And between these two characters is what drives the story, their interplay in this world of survival, and forces yet to be revealed, and the definite feelings between them. They are eventually forced into overwhelming situations where they are forced to decide between becoming part of this underworld, or desperately grasp at escape to keep their beings intact.

Both honest and powerful, the story pulls you into the tensions and emotions such that you can’t help but feel for the characters. The movement keeps the film going with a momentum that can’t be stopped. And the production makes the world come alive before us with detail. A very wise choice for Tautou to follow up her internationally successful ‘Amelie,’ and a smart contrast as well. But the film benefits as much from her, a dim light to keep the whole ship from crashing down into darkness. This drop of contrast in the film is potent, but kept smartly to a drop to not ruin it in a sacrifice of believability and earnestness.

‘Dirty Pretty Things’ presents a strong, darker, vividly interesting film involving shady practices and underhanded denizens of this crime ridden fringe with a couple of good people stuck in the sludge. It also manages both depth and drama without resorting to impeding the movement of the film, nor the interest of the viewer. Finally, top this all off with a great heaping of rich and gritty atmosphere in both character and visual presence. Tautou, and eveyone else involved, should be proud of what they brought to our theaters, and we are the ones to benefit.

Website Review: (http://www.go-underground.com/) A rather misleading website with a rather creative design concept. Don’t go, before or after. The site is very misleading to what the film is and the characters in it, and nothing exists that adds to the film after seeing it. A tragic disappointment.

(Review ©2003 by Joshua Parkinson, posted originally at http://www.indestructiblecycles.com)

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