Film analysis of 'My Beautiful Laundrette' - Finding Where to Belong to

Term Paper, 2007

13 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Various Ways of Love
2.1. Family Love
2.2. Friendship
2.3. Relationship

3. Success and Its Attendant Circumstances

4. Codes of Behaviour in Pakistani Culture

5. Background Information: Hanif Kureishi

6. Overview of Cinematic Elements

7. The Message: Everyone Has to Find Where to Belong

8. Conclusion

9. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The movie “My Beautiful Laundrette” based on the Hanif Kureishi’s screenplay and directed by Stephen Frears made its debut in the British cinemas in 1985.[1] It touches on various aspects of conflicts that minorities face. It adheres to sexual identity, class and racial problems by presenting many sorts of emotional bonding and the struggle to find one’s right space in society.

My focus will be on the narrative structure and the analysis of the characters’ behaviours and actions, therefore I did not use many secondary sources. I am going to analyse the film by looking at three leitmotifs: “love”, “success” and “cultural rules of behaviour”. These leitmotifs are interrelated and often contradictory, which leads to many conflicts. The family love and support helps Omar achieve great success in his working class situation, which is backed with equal strength by his partner Johnny. Without Johnny he would have been unable to restore the laundrette. His success can also be seen as a result of the Pakistani code of behaviour where it is normal to give a relative a job if there is a chance to do so. However, the conventional rules of behaviour on both sides, Pakistani and British, stand against the relationship between Omar and Johnny and therefore also stand in the way of their success.

All the characters present part of a subculture in which they have to strive harder than a middle-class person to be accepted by society. They have to face many boundaries and social problems. “My Beautiful Laundrette” depicts these hard lives without playing on one’s heart strings. It rather illustrates how it is possible to control one’s own fate by making the most of the given situation and refraining from believing stereotypes.

2. Various Ways of Love

The film presents various kinds of love, starting with family gatherings and support of family members. Furthermore it shows two kinds of friendship: one which suppresses one’s own individuality and the other which helps regaining it. Equally, the movies pays attention to deep emotional bonding that arises from true commitment and sincere partnership, regardless of the status or origin of the partner.

2.1 Family Love

Family commitment is shown in an opposite way, depending on the cultural background. The representation exaggerates a cliché by showing strong family bonding on the Pakistani side and no family bonds at all on the British side. The viewer gets thrown into the action in the very first scene, when Johnny is caught squatting and has to escape. The cross-cutting between the “removers” and Johnny and his sleeping friend shows the unstable situation they are in. Fast cuts increase the feeling of tension inside the viewer. As soon as they leave the building, soft music is employed to indicate to the viewer that better times are to come. The harmonic music and the following opening credits (which are made of words spinning like a laundrette and are underlined with bubble-like sounding noises) help define the genre as an optimistic approach to a serious issue rather than a gloomy and violent one.

In the subsequent scene the plot switches to Omar’s story to indicate that there are two strands of the plot. The main strand is definitely Omar’s story which will be enriched by and combined with Johnny’s presence later on. The first shot in Omar’s apartment includes the view out of his bathroom window while he is attending to the household. This medium shot includes the view of trains running past the window in a distance of several metres. The “train” symbolises lower class and industrialized urban lifestyle. It reappears throughout the whole movie as a constant reminder of the working class situation. The close-up shot, which follows and shows a hand pouring alcohol into a glass, is meant to characterize Omar’s father, who seems to have given up on his own life but not on Omar’s. The only thing he can do to help his son is to ask his brother Nasser to supply him with a steady work until he returns to college. The stable family bond between father and son becomes evident in this scene. Omar takes care of his father by keeping their apartment in order and cooking him meals and Omar’s father helps him by using his connections.

Johnny confirms the viewer’s expectations when he admits that he has left home because he did not get along with his family any longer. His new home becomes an empty house and his new family a group of other lost street kids. Through Omar’s family he finally gets a new, permanent place to live which is the first step into a return to a steady life for him. The advantages that Omar receives through his family support improve Johnny’s situation as well. It can almost be seen as an integration into a new family.

2.2 Friendship

Johnny’s right-winged circle of friends is introduced for the first time in the scene when Omar drives Salim and his wife home and they almost get attacked by them. The sombre music already indicates that a dangerous scene is to follow. While the fascists molest and insult Salim and his wife, who are sitting in the car, the lighting is dark with flashing bright light which comes from the railroad crossing. This lighting underlines the atmosphere of not knowing what is going to happen by showing the steady mixture of sudden white faces and darkness. Although the situation seems dangerous, Omar steps out of the car, eager to talk to his former friend Johnny. He seems to be leading the group but at the same time he is not actively involved in their doings. Again the background music underlines the mood and enlightens the atmosphere during Omar’s approach. Johnny is standing further off on a platform which causes a lower angle from Omar’s view. Even though Johnny avoids direct eye contact with Omar at first, the deep emotional bonding and their mutual sympathy becomes evident to the viewer. The direct eye contact with the viewer in the close up shots of Omar’s and later also Johnny’s face enables to recognize their deep feelings. This scene is significant for the whole plot development as it presents Johnny’s and Omar’s meeting after several years. The viewer does not know what kind of relationship they have had, but can assume that they were at least close friends who even knew the families of each other.

It is obvious that Omar still trusts Johnny as he asks him to come into business with him. Johnny sees this as a chance to find his way back into a regular life and also to be together with the one he loves. By these means they help each other to achieve a better situation, both financially and emotionally. This friendship, which develops into a homosexual love-relationship, clearly supports their aims to find the right path, whereas Johnny’s fascist friends rather throw him off the track. The fascist group tries to talk Johnny out of working for Omar by claiming that he is not supposed to be working for a “Paki”.


[1] Internet Movie Data Base. (2007) 01.07.07

Excerpt out of 13 pages


Film analysis of 'My Beautiful Laundrette' - Finding Where to Belong to
University of Hannover
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Film, Beautiful, Laundrette, Finding, Where, Belong
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Fiona Steinert (Author), 2007, Film analysis of 'My Beautiful Laundrette' - Finding Where to Belong to, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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