It’s the holy grail for filmmakers: to tell an entertaining, moving, funny story with something important to say about our world. Pride recalls how a small group of gay activists took a trip from London to blue-collar South Wales in 1984 to lend their support to a beleaguered miners’ strike, believing that the miners were going through a struggle not unlike their own. And what joy and pain director Matthew Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford unearth as they detail awkward meetings that blossom into unlikely friendships and personal breakthroughs.
The “gays,” as the Welsh call them, are led by young Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), loud and determined. Those at his side in Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) include barely out Joe (George MacKay) and a couple, actor Jonathan (Dominic West) and his more meek partner, Gethin (Andrew Scott), for whom a return to Wales holds special meaning. An equally sprawling cast of Welsh characters includes Hefina (Imelda Staunton), Dai (Paddy Considine) and Cliff (Bill Nighy). Both “sides” meet on various occasions, culminating in a raucous visit to London when Mark and his comrades organize a series of “Pits and Perverts” fund-raising concerts.
In tone, Pride bears comparison to British social comedies like The Full Monty and Billy Elliot: It’s populist, touching and full of songs, mounting a twin raid on your tear ducts and funny bones. But this film, with its scenes of men kissing and Staunton hysterically waving a big pink dildo, has the edge, a progressive touch that anchors it in 2014. Warchus’s background is theater—he directed Matilda onstage—and what he cooks up here has all the drive and verve of a musical. The beauty of Beresford’s script is that it champions solidarity while never ignoring individual experience; helped by a strong cast, he finds moments of truth for several characters in some very effective brief scenes.
That’s not to say Pride is especially daring. But for a defiantly mainstream film, it’s free of coyness and embarrassment, unashamed of shouting about the powers of friendship and empathy. It’s a joyous film, full of warmth and unafraid to admit that with sticking out your neck comes struggle and sorrow. Truly lovely.
Follow Dave Calhoun on Twitter: @davecalhoun
|Release date:||Friday September 26 2014|
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Fans of the miner's strike, of gay activism and of British film-making will all be enthused by this story, based on a real relationship which developed between a group of gay supporters and the miners of a small Welsh town. Aided and abetted by a thumping eighties soundtrack and a good dose of humour, it's hard to dislike the plot which weaves together the personal stories of a number of these unlikely compatriots. Touching and never obvious, it's feel-good message transcends the well documented defeat of their efforts.