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Daniel Day-Lewis came to international attention with this scrappy sleeper hit, playing a gay street tough who joins his Pakistani lover in managing a rundown London laundrette.
Originally made for television but later released in theatres to surprising commercial success, My Beautiful Laundrette launched director Stephen Frears, screenwriter Hanif Kureishi and star Daniel Day-Lewis to international prominence. A witty, cheerfully scabrous examination of racial tensions, homophobia and economic unrest in Thatcher-era London, the film focuses on Omar (Gordon Warnecke), a young Pakistani man whose wealthy, entrepreneurial uncle (Saeed Jaffrey) assigns him to manage a rundown laundrette and turn it into a profitable enterprise. Omar soon runs into an old friend and lover, Johnny (Day-Lewis), who now hangs out with a gang of racist, right-wing extremists. Seeking to leave the thug life behind, Johnny teams up with Omar to run the laundrette, and the two resume their love affair as business quickly picks up. Beset by pressures from Omar's family and the violent bigotry of Johnny's former gang, the two friends focus on creating a better life for themselves, with the launderette as their unlikely haven. Warm, sexy and funny, My Beautiful Laundrette became a benchmark of the 1980s New Queer Cinema and made Day-Lewis into the official Great Actor of his generation; he received awards from both the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle for his performances in this film and A Room With a View.