Dirty Pretty Things (2002) Review

Verdict: Interesting take

Great story of the invisible society.


Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor) works two jobs: by day he is a cab driver, and by night he is the front desk clerk at a hotel. Having no legal papers to stay in the country, he resides in Senay’s (Audrey Tautou) apartment while she is at work in the same hotel. One night, Juliette (Sophie Okonedo) a prostitute and frequent visitor to the hotel mentions a clogged toilet to Okwe. In it, he finds  that the clog is caused by a whole human heart being flushed down. From then on, he realizes that his boss, Juan (Sergi Lopez) is running an underground kidney trafficking business in the hotel. Directed by Stephen Frears.

First off, the trailer as posted is above is very misleading. While the trailer mainly narrates about the hardships of Senay, in the film, Okwe is the main protagonist. Okwe’s narrative is the one we follow, though of course we sympathize with Senay’s character too. The trailer was probably made the way it was because Audrey Tautou is quite recognized in the French film industry.

Ejiofor and Tautou both give great performances, with great chemistry between them. Ejiofor shows his character’s dilemma between morality and survival well, and we quickly know what kind of person Okwe is. He gives off a sincere and honest persona, as is not surprising of a doctor. Tautou shows the vulnerabilities of being a refugee and a woman, and the exploitation of her body that comes with that. Lopez, Okonedo, Benedict Wong (who plays Guo Yi) and Zlatko Buric (Ivan) contribute in creating this side of invisible London and they play their parts convincingly.

The story is definitely an interesting one, as there is no portrayal of local Londoners and instead shows only the invisible side of London. By invisible, I mean the people who are generally not noticed and are interchangeable, i.e. the cleaning ladies, cab drivers, doormen etc. Also referenced as the ‘dirty’ people which comes into play in the title of the film. Also, Okwe says a line near the end of the film that resonates with this theme and which I find a lot of truth in, “We are the people you do not see. We are the ones who drive your cabs. We clean your rooms. And we suck your cocks.”

Living a pretty privileged life, it is hard and disheartening to realize that others have it so much worse, and in circumstances that might not even be imaginable. The film does a great job at inspiring a little hope with the ending, but it is an optimistic one. Certainly, the real world does not end like this, but for this film justice has been somewhat served. The ending is not entirely happy though, I feel that it is somewhat heart-wrenching. A great eye-opener nonetheless.

To sum-up:
PROS: Acting, story, chemistry
CONS: Optimistic yet heart-wrenching ending

I give this an 8/10.

Have you seen Dirty Pretty Things? Rate it out of 5 stars above or leave a comment below.


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