Have you heard the name Chiwetel Ejiofor before? Well, if there's any
justice in the world, you'll hear it again at the Academy Awards ceremony
in March, 2004. If you want to see the best male acting performance of
the year (so far), you'll find it in Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty
Pretty Things (2003)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofo, Audrey Tautou,
and Sergi Lopez
Ejiofor stars as Okwe, an illegal Nigerian immigrant working in London
as the night porter in a posh hotel. During the day, he drives a cab.
He rents a space on a couch from a Turkish woman named Senay (Audrey Tautou),
who also works at the hotel as a maid and is also an illegal immigrant.
Okwe, Senay and the other illegals struggle to remain as anonymous as
possible while trying to carve out a living for themselves.
One night, Okwe makes a horrifying discovery in the hotel: A human heart
is clogging a toilet. He tries to get his manager, nicknamed Sneaky (Sergi
Lopez), to call the police. Sneaky, however, reminds Okwe that being an
illegal doesn't give him much credibility when reporting crimes. So, Okwe
tries to find out what would possibly cause someone to flush a perfectly
healthy human heart down the toilet. What he finds puts himself and Senay
in terrible danger.
Director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Steven Knight have constructed
a scenario that is horrifying from the get-go and gets worse as time passes.
The conditions real-life illegal immigrants are forced to live and work
under are unpleasant as it is, but the situations that the characters
in the film find themselves placed in are doubly bad. Frears' direction
ratchets up the tension and despair while making the audience truly care
about the characters' well-being. Somehow, the film even manages to be
funny in a completely intentional way.
Ejiofor's performance as the well-mannered and caring Okwe is absolutely
perfect. Audrey Tautou, who is probably best-known for her role as Amelie
in the film of the same name, is good, but not great in her first English-speaking
role. Sergi Lopez, as Sneaky, is slimy and darkly humorous as the manipulative
hotel manager. Also good are Sophie Okonedo as Juliette, a prostitute,
and Benedict Wong as Guo Yi, a mortician who helps Okwe.
Pretty Things is a film that's hard to forget with characters that
are equally memorable. Miss this at your peril.
Steven Knight is one of the people responsible for the UK version
of the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?". (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)