Stephen Frears makes another gritty drama which deals with a contemporary issue-this time it is about illegal immigration in England. Taken from the viewpoint of the immigrants we must sympathise with them, and whatever your political viewpoint on the subject Frears again has given the average viewer more to think about. He shows above all the human side of these forgotten people, reminding us that they should not be treated like cattle (even when they are in the film), and that they are simply trying to find a home and survive. Some will view the characters as immoral, breaking the law of a country not their own in order to further themselves, but this is not the case.
Ejiofor plays Okwe, an African immigrant working two jobs in London just so he can raise enough money to get by. He is a doctor, but most of his time is spent as a Hotel Porter. He sleeps on the couch of another illegal immigrant, Senay from Turkey played by Audrey Tautou. She works in the same Hotel as Okwe, but the immigration guys are after her and she changes jobs quickly, going to work in a factory where the owner forces her to give him sexual favours. One night Okwe is unplugging a toilet in a hotel when he finds a human heart. It seems Sneaky, the Hotel’s night manager is involved in several dodgy schemes, most involving black-market donors- he exploits immigrants, making them donate their various organs in order to get money for themselves so that they can leave or gain citizenship. Senay wants to join her family in America, but will never be able to afford tickets or passports and she agrees to sell a kidney to Sneaky. She is in love with Okwe, but guilty over giving up her virginity, and Okwe comes up with a plan to save Senay by saying he will do the operation in exchange for passports. These are are the dirty things of the title which are forced upon innocent people with no other way out.
Frears must be praised again for bringing an important and taboo issue to the big screen and deals with it in a clever and honest way. There are funny moments, amidst all the grim details so it never becomes unwatchable. Frears is showing that whatever you believe, the immigration laws in this country are deeply flawed and is drawing attention to the fact that people are being exploited. Okwe does an excellent job in the lead role and gives a memorable, understated performance, showing the strain and pressure of a man in such a situation. Tautou in her first English speaking role is also very good, and although her Turkish accent slips this can be forgiven. She portrays the yearning for a better life accurately and the desperation which comes with such a desire. She was undoubtedly offered many roles like Amelie after that film’s success, but deserves respect for choosing to do something different, especially here in such a challenging role. Sergi Lopez is perfect as Sneaky, a slimy man who will do anything to anyone just to get a little more money, a precursor to his character in Pan’s Labyrinth. Sophie Okonedo is also good as a local prostitute, providing some light relief. The love story does seem a little odd and almost tacked on, but the conviction of the actors mean they pull it off without it seeming unconvincing. A film probably which only fans of Tautou or Frears will come to which is unfortunate as it has much to offer. Nothing extra on the DVD though.
As always, please leave any comments on the movie and your thoughts on the issues related.