Dirty Pretty Things


Directed by: Stephen Fears
Written by:Stephen Knight
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, Sergi Lopez, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Wong
Released: June 10, 2004
Grade: A-

It’s my favourite film title of the year – Dirty Pretty Things.  It creates curiosity and a desire to know exactly what is both dirty and pretty.  You find out in the earlier stages of this film which is well directed by Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, High Fidelity) and craftily written by Stephen Knight, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his work.

Okwe (Ejiofor) is a Nigerian native trying to elude immigration officers in London.  He never sleeps, works numerous jobs and is looking to build a new life.  By night, Okwe works at the front desk of a posh hotel.  Trying to keep a low profile, the sly Okwe has been living at the apartment of one of the hotel’s maids, Senay (Tautou), who is also looking to avoid the authorities.

At work one evening, Okwe is asked to investigate a problem in Room 510.  The toilet is overflowing but it isn’t a run-of-the-mill incident.  The clog is being caused by a human heart.  Exactly how did a human heart end up in a hotel toilet?  There’s no sign of any other trouble in the room and so Okwe goes to hotel manager, Juan (Lopez), who thinks little of it.  Okwe finds himself is a difficult situation – he knows he needs to call the police but as an illegal immigrant, he’s putting his own head in a noose.  Is there a better way to resolve this situation?  Indeed there is.

Frears has assembled a strong cast to back the worthy screenplay.  I had never heard of Chiwetel Ejiofor before but I now know him as an English actor on the rise.  He works wonderfully with French actress Audrey Tautou who many will remember from the popular foreign comedy Amelie.

It’s a very interesting story filled with memorable characters with an ending sure to please.  It’s a gritty look into a world I know very little of and it brings to light many attention-grabbing issues.  Like any good thriller, you never know what’s going to happen next.  In a week when Harry Potter is dominating the Australian box-office and causing lengthy queues, here is an ideal alternative.