Daniel Day-Lewis did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Johnny Burfoot in My Beautiful Laundrette.
Daniel Day-Lewis made his international breakout as a potentially one a kind talent when A Room With a View and My Beautiful Laundrette both premiered on the exact same day in New York. Day-Lewis despite not being a clear lead in either film, with Laundrette there's an argument that can be made but the film's wavering perspective makes it difficult to say precisely either way, was noted heavily by critics at the time. The reason being the roles could not be more different. In Room with the View he gave a brilliant depiction of a repressed wealthy man in Edwardian England, here he plays a homosexual working class punk in Thatcher's England.We first meet Johnny Burfoot played by Day-Lewis here as an aimless guy who squats in empty houses, and most commonly hangs around street corners with his pseudo gang of equally disengaged friends. I suppose at this point it almost seems pointless that Day-Lewis disappears into the role, but eh I'll do it anyway. Day-Lewis succeeds in disappearing into the role of Johnny Burfoot just as he did Cecil Vyse in A Room With A View.
Daniel Day-Lewis despite being held up often as possibly the greatest living actor currently, which is only further encouraged by his leading actor Oscar record, is all the same still criticized by some for being too clinical of a performer. This performance is yet Day-Lewis showing another side to his capabilities. Yes there are a few tenets of a classic Day-Lewis performance, that being a flawless and always consistent accent. A fairly light one in this case however effective in illustrating Johnny's working class background. Day-Lewis also does employ certain mannerisms in his performance yet in such a naturalistic fashion that are particularly subdued. Day-Lewis's approach is quite remarkable here in the way he almost internalizes the flamboyancy in Johnny. He never acts out in this big way, something Day-Lewis quite adept at anyway, however what he does really works for the part. Day-Lewis gives this sense of possibly a more flamboyant past with the character through his method of portraying Johnny doing things in his own style, yet this style never insists upon itself either. Day-Lewis carries himself as a man at ease with himself as a gay man, and does not need to announce this to others constantly either.
Although Johnny is seen in a few brief moments beforehand his role grows substantially in the story once he meets up with the son of one of the Pakistani immigrants named Omar(Gordon Warnecke). The two have a history which becomes largely known through the chemistry between Warnecke and Day-Lewis. The two just have the spark from the very beginning and from the way they both look at each other one can see that it is not one of only friendship. Now in these scenes Day-Lewis successfully calls upon something that is not always expected him given the often violent or deeply troubled he plays, that something being charm. Day-Lewis though is exceptional here in making Johnny an extremely likable presence in the film. He brings this low key and very natural type of cool to the role. Day-Lewis is endearing rather than cloying as he so honestly presents Johnny as a guy who tends to do things his way, but this does not allude to any stubbornness on his part. Day-Lewis brings always this undercurrent of warmth about Johnny that shows so well the intended good nature of the man despite the nature of the rest of the crowd around him as well as his past.
Now the progression of the main story comes in as Omar brings in Johnny to help him run a laundromat that is owned by Omar's family. The two go about renovating the place to turn it into truly a beautiful laundrette. Within that setup the two's relationship progresses more, and again the two's chemistry is notable. There is a playfulness at times, and just something so inherent about the love the two have for each other that works so well. I love that Day-Lewis and Warnecke are able to keep it an often unspoken yet always understandable relationship between the two. Although the two have that connection not everything is easy due to the complications of the past and present around them. Johnny's own past is complicated due to certain fascist leanings of the past, and Day-Lewis is very moving as he so subtly reveals the remorse in Johnny as he apologizes for his old mistakes. Day-Lewis also excels in his still quiet yet rather powerful depiction of Johnny's personal struggle in terms of dealing with his old gang and the rest of Omar's family. Day-Lewis adds so much in this aspect to the character largely through just small reactions. In terms of the relationships with the rest of Omar's family Day-Lewis brings the right distance, but also eagerness in manner to be a man who wants to do right by them despite not being one of them. One scene I love in particular is when Johnny interacts with Omar's father, and we instantly see through their interactions that the two also have shared history as Day-Lewis exudes a sense of respect. Respect does not define all the relationships especially with Omar's cousin Salim, a drug dealing criminal with little care for anyone besides himself. This forces Johnny to consider his place between his old friends, and Omar and the other Pakistanis. Day-Lewis conveys wholly the complexity of Johnny's difficulty in dealing with his separate loyalties, and again very little of it is said bluntly. However when Johnny goes about helping the obnoxious Salim it is absolutely convincing as Day-Lewis has only made the gradual transition of the character a genuine one. As Day-Lewis performances and characters go this is rather unassuming yet no less remarkable. Day-Lewis gives understated yet magnetic performance. I found that even when the film stumbled a bit Day-Lewis kept me engaged through his always compelling work here.