The first half of the 1980s had been a pretty fallow time for movies, but it was especially hard on British cinema. So when Stephen Frears’ My Beautiful Laundrette hit American theaters in the spring of 1986, it felt like something of a rebirth, which, in fact, it was. It also brought Frears and a young writer, Hanif Kureishi, together, as well as propelled a largely unknown actor named Daniel Day-Lewis to stardom. It’s a bit surprising then that 23 years later, the film has seemingly all but vanished from our cinematic consciousness. That’s too bad.
Watching it again—after a number of years—I was delighted to find that My Beautiful Laundrette more than holds up on every level. Thatcher’s Britain—which hangs heavily over the movie—no longer exists, but the film’s view of it remains trenchant, while the human stories ring as true as ever. Kureishi’s script brims with terrific lines that are expertly delivered by the entire cast, while the story’s romance—between Day-Lewis and Gordon Warnecke—still seems powerful, fresh and honest. The existence of a movie involving a gay romance that didn’t end in tragedy was startling in 1986, and is still unusual today. If you’ve never seen the film, do yourself a favor and catch this showing. You might just be surprised at what a funny, penetrating and even erotic film awaits you.