The psychosis of a writer is among one of the most unique, as they allow themselves to get completely enmeshed in the alternate universes they create. For Jack (Simon Pegg), that world has become one entirely populated by Victorian serial killers. His research for a project he wants to pitch for a television script gets the better of him, and soon he starts to find a reason to be paranoid about everyone and everything in his midst (and even that which is not in his midst). Even the task of going to meet his literary agent, Clair (Clare Higgins), is an arduous one, solidifying his fear of all when he notices their waiter has what he calls "the criminal stare." While, at times, Crispian Mills' (yes, from The Prodigy) script borders on the entirely nonsensical, it never ceases to humor--even during a scene when Jack is being held captive by an unoriginal serial killer.
When Clair suggests that Jack step away from his Decades of Death project to work on another children's book--one called Harold the Hedgehog--Jack practically becomes murderous over the very thought. Later on in the evening, after calling him multiple times (but, of course, Jack is too paranoid to pick up the phone), Clair is finally able to get him to answer and tells him she found someone who might be willing to buy Decades of Death, a man by the name of Harvey Humphries, who Jack must meet by 8. The only problem is, Jack has no clean clothes and must face his ultimate fear: Going to the launderette.
Before he can admit that he will have to go there if he wants a shirt and underwear that do not reek of toxic waste, he tries to do it himself, putting the wet clothes in the oven to dry. In the meantime, he's superglued a knife to his hand (it's a long story) and, in the panic of this discovery, realizes he's burned his clothes in the oven, which he foolishly opens and gets blasted by. Reconciling that he must face his fear, he first telephones Dr. Friedkin (Paul Freeman) a therapist he's been consulting with for his serial killer project to get some sort of counsel. Friedkin insists that Jack has suppressed a trauma somehow related to the launderette and must therefore face it in order to be free.
With all the reluctance of a garden snail, Jack makes his way to a launderette that is a parody of a remote location. Upon arriving, the clientele seems to regard him with an unusual amount of trepidation, which Jack later learns is a result of half his hair being burned off due to the oven gaffe. Jack tries to keep his cool, even though he realizes he has forgotten one crucial step in the washing process: Detergent. Just when he thinks things can't get any worse, a beautiful woman, Sangeet (Amara Karan), walks in. Praying he doesn't get distracted, Jack ends up tossing his underwear out of the dryer only to have it land near Sangeet. When she tries to return the garment to him, Jack forgets himself and takes his hand out of his pocket--knife still superglued to it in full glory. The misunderstanding that follows is only the beginning of the hijinks that must unfold in order for Jack to come to terms with his childhood trauma (Dr. Friedkin asserts that childhood is where all major issues stem from).
Apart from illuminating that the launderette is a place of utter demeanment and should be avoided at all costs (and that writers and serial killers are very similar), Mills' also makes it evident that facing your ultimate fear is the only way to overcome it. There may be a few digressions along the path to this revelation, but it's worth the journey if you're a fan of the fantastical.