Pride_poster

Director: Matthew Warchus

Writer: Stephen Beresford

Country: UK

Runtime: 120 mins

Cast: Bill Nighy, Dominic West, Paddy Considine, Jessica Gunning, Faye Marsay, George Mackay, Ben Schnetzer

Pride is a wonderful comic drama, based on true events in 1984-5, about a group of striking Welsh miners who find themselves being supported by a gay and lesbian organisation in London. In the tradition of British movies such as The Full MontyBilly Elliot, and Brassed Off, this film is about downtrodden people fighting back against the odds in mid-eighties Thatcher’s Britain, except that in Pride the politics is much more to the fore rather than treated as background context for a feelgood triumph.

Ben Schnetzer plays Mark Ashton, a gay activist who identifies that gays and lesbians have a common cause with the striking miners in battling against a hostile government. He sets up a group called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), consisting of a small group of friends who congregate at Gethin’s bookshop. However, having collected money for miners they struggle to find a mining community who will talk to gays and lesbians. Eventually, a volunteer at Onllwyn Miners Welfare Hall in South Wales takes a telephone message and, in due course, miner Dai Donovan (Paddy Considine) turns up in London, completely unaware of the nature of the people he is meeting. He gets on well with them, though, and gives a friendly and gracious speech at a gay club.

But things do not go so smoothly back home in Onllwyn, where the usual practice is to invite support groups to come and socialise. Even though LGSM has collected more money than any other group, most of the union committee do not want to be associated with them, and it takes a miner’s wife, Sian (Jessica Gunning), to browbeat the men into extending an invite. Mark and the LGSM travel to Wales and, after an initially hostile reception, the barriers between the two groups gradually start to come down.

Perhaps appropriately for a film that is about group solidarity, Pride doesn’t feature one main protagonist and over the course of the film we get brief glimpses into the lives of several characters, though this broad approach means there is no exploration of backstory for any of them. One gay man reconciles with the mother from whom he has long been estranged, whilst another character breaks away from the parents who can’t accept his homosexuality. Inevitably, one of the miners’ committee comes out as gay, whilst others notice that girls are impressed by the dance skills of gay men, and ask for lessons. Several issues are also briefly touched upon but not pursued: the separate age of consent for gay men, women’s representation in decision making, and HIV/AIDS.

This sweeping approach works well, because any deeper focus on these issues would have threatened to derail the main story, whilst at the same time we are reminded of the many important problems that gay men and women have had to face. This is also at heart a feel-good movie with a very witty script, and many memorable lines, but the interjections of character conflict and the issues mentioned above prevent the story from tipping over into schmaltz. Indeed, not every inhabitant of Onllwyn has abandoned their prejudices by the end of the film and there is no ignoring the fact that the miners themselves were defeated. However, Pride also serves as a reminder of the good things that can be achieved when people stand together in solidarity.

There are excellent performances all round, but for me the one actor who really stands out is Bill Nighy. As the quiet and diffident Cliff his performance is a million miles away from the confident and slightly louche characters we are so used to seeing him play.

Pride is a must-see film for the autumn.

Rating: 10/10

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