"How come I've never seen you before?"
"Because we are the people you never see."

Title: Dirty Pretty Things
Director: Stephen Frears
Writer: Steve Knight
Release Date: 13th December 2002 (UK), 18th July 2003 (US)

Chiwetel Ejiofor - Okwe
Audrey Tautou - Senay
Sergi López - Juan
Benedict Wong - Guo Yi
Sophie Okonedo - Juliette
Zlatko Buric - Ivan

Okwe, an illegal immigrant in Britain from Nigeria shares a flat with Senay, a Turkish asylum seeker illegally working as a maid at the same hotel that Okwe works nights at. Okwe is holding down a daytime job as a taxi driver as well and buys special plants (almost certainly khat) to chew that help him stay awake. After finding a human heart blocking the toilet in a room in the hotel, Okwe finds himself being thrust into the world of illegal organ donation in London's underworld. His skills as a doctor are sought after and he becomes increasingly embroiled in something he wants no part of. Meanwhile Senay, forced to perform sexual acts on her boss in an attempt to evade the immigration services, longs to move to New York and start anew.

A love of sorts develops between Okwe and Senay, and, when Senay decides to lose a kidney to pay for a flight, Okwe steps in to perform the operation. As things turn out, Senay keeps all her organs, and both get the money to leave England - Senay to New York, Okwe to Nigeria.


It would be unfair to say Dirty Pretty Things is a bad film. The acting is very good, the script pretty nice and the direction spotless. It just feels like there's missing something - the main story seems slightly unbelievable and the character's motivations are sometimes uncertain at best. Also, some of the peripheral characters are incredibly one dimensional - Ivan in particular is an almost insulting caricature of a bumbling Russian, while the fairly major role of Juan the hotel manager also plays up to stereotypes hideously. And don't get me started on the two immigration officers.

On the other hand, newcomer Chiwetel Ejiofor is very very good and Audrey Tautou, in her first major role since Amélie, does a reasonable job of nailing the Turkish accent. Benedict Wong, as the almost comic character of Okwe's mortician friend, is also worthy of mention.

This is Stephen Frear's first major film since 2000's Nick Hornby adaptation, High Fidelity, and this certainly doesn't quite make it up to that film's giddy heights. Where it does work, and both first-time screenwriter Steve Knight and the director are to thank, is showing us (and more specifically, overseas viewers) a side of London, and even England, which has not really been seen before - the seedy underbelly of cheap labour available from people who have no choice. The last time Frears touched on this 'unseen Britain' was in 1985's My Beautiful Laundrette, a fairly unexpected success at it's time of release.

Overall, as I mentioned before, this film just feels as if it's missing something.
As a friend of mine said:

"It would have been a lot better if it had been foreign.
What that film needed was subtitles."

Make of that what you will.

the kidney-tastic imdb.com