My Beautiful Launderette (1986)




Director:   Stephen Frears

Starring:   Saeed Jaffrey (Nasser), Roshan Seth (Papa), Daniel Day-Lewis (Johnny), Gordon Warnecke (Omar), Derrick Branche (Salim), Rita Wolf (Tania)


 multiculturalism in Great Britain

Pakistani Omar tries to reconcile the two worlds of British and Pakistani culture.  Omar is also part of another culture (or subculture) due to the fact that he is homosexual.  Being caught between different worlds is a perennial problem for minority populations and Omar is no different.   

Omar's father is a former journalist and a socialist.  He wants his son to go to college.  But Omar is much more interested in making money.  His Uncle gives him a summer job washing cars in his garage.  Another relative, Salim, promises to help Omar prosper.  But Salim turns to be involved in the running of drugs.

Omar wants to become rich and he is very willing to run the family laundrette (which in American mean laundromat).  In order to get funds to finance the improvement of the laundrette, he starts stealing some of Salim's drugs and selling them.  And when Salim finds out, Omar finds himself behind the 8 ball. 

Omar is torn between various competing desires for him among family and friends.  His uncle wants him to be rich, but his father wants him to go to college.  His family wants him to marry (Tania is the girl they have in mind), but he is in love with his white boyfriend Johnny.  Omar wants to be accepted into the white world, but he is constantly beset by the virtual skin heads in the neighborhood.  The whites often call the Pakistanis "wogs" or "wog boys/wog girls".  Even Johnny, at one time, was a would-be skin head and at demonstrations shouted with the rest of the gang "Immigrants out!"

The Uncle catches some of the ambivalence of the Pakistanis to the British culture with such references as "in this country which we hate and love" and "the gora Englishman".   The Uncle keeps his traditional family, but also has a trophy white mistress, which makes his Pakistani wife very angry and revengeful. 

All these competing demands and wishes end in a dramatic blow-up of violence. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Things have gotten much worse for the Pakistanis since 9/11/2001 with the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City.  They feel they are unfairly singled out as terrorists and feel even less accepted in their adopted country than before. 


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