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Unwashed

Critic:

William Hemingway

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Posted on:

11 Jan 2022

Film Reviews
Unwashed
Directed by:
Ankita Ranjan
Written by:
Stephen Stallone Thomas
Starring:
Stephen Stallone Thomas, Thomas Royal
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Pierce (Thomas) and Devon (Royal) have something they need to talk about. They have come back together after a couple of years apart and are still divided over an issue that hangs about them like the smell of old laundry. Strangely their new meet-cute takes place in a small laundrette and once their washing is in the machines the inevitable topic of conversation rears its head ready for a public airing.

 

Right off the bat things don't flow smoothly for the two young men, with their lead opener and resultant conversation appearing to be too obviously scripted as well as badly recorded on the audio track. It doesn't take long for them to get into the swing of things though and once they settle down into a rhythm the audio seems to sort itself out and we can be receptive to the difficult feelings that they need to share with one another.

 

Naturally, their conversation turns to the last time they were together. A fateful night which changed both of their lives and which was supposed to be the start of something new and beautiful for the two of them. Obviously things didn't turn out the way that either of them had hoped and a giant gulf opened up between the pair with Devon disappearing into the wind and Pierce being left with no answers. Now Pierce has moved on with his life, but he is still haunted by questions and the 'what if's' that circle endlessly round his brain. Devon, on the other hand, wonders if there's still a chance to rekindle an old flame.

 

Unwashed then, obviously owes a lot to My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) in terms of tone, style and setting. It deals with the relationship (and resultant fallout) of a young, interracial gay couple and exposes the barriers – societal, familial and personal – that are placed in their way. In its eight minute runtime it obviously can't match Hanif Kureishi and Stephen Frears' classic in terms of depth and exposure, but it does manage to take a situation that is an all too common occurrence and lay it bare in an accessible and deeply affecting manner.

 

The performances from Stephen Stallone Thomas and Thomas Royal, despite their shaky start, come across as very natural and engaging. Their conversation is one that is relatable to a lot of people and it is easy to imagine countless other couples having to play out the same scenario, sharing the same difficult truths, trying to answer the same unanswerable questions, saying the same words to each other as Pierce and Devon do. Thomas' script is in large measure to thank for that.

 

Again, after the dip in quality at the beginning of the film, the sound editing comes to add a lot to the feeling of the scenario, with the hum-drum of the machines constantly in the background and occasional clicks and buzzers punctuating the dialogue. The music is well placed too, with two original tracks playing alongside the story, matching it frame for frame in an evocation of the excitement and loss felt throughout.

 

Interestingly, there is also a definite link here between Unwashed and another short film, from writer/director Matthew Puccini, named Dirty(2020). It, too, deals with a young, interracial gay couple navigating the difficulties of a fledgling relationship and also manages to find its way into a small laundrette in its denouement. Rather strikingly the themes, conversations and content of the films match up so well that Unwashed could be considered as a companion piece or spiritual successor to Dirty; a lingering idea of what could have happened, or what might come next, as a possible continuation of the story.

 

This incredibly close alignment of the two short films may detract some of the originality from Unwashed but in no way does that affect the final product. It merely shows the universality of the story being told and hints at how important the subject matter is to young, creative voices. Unwashed, on its own, is an accomplished take on an important story and despite its minor foibles manages to stand proud amongst its contemporaries.

About the Film Critic
William Hemingway
William Hemingway
Short Film, LGBTQ+