Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Pride

Y’know, if there’s one thing British filmmakers really “get”, it’s feel-good films. British people love an underdog, after all, and films like Billy Elliot, East Is East, The Full Monty, Brassed Off, and Kinky Boots have underdogs in spades. But can Pride – Matthew Warchus’s dramatization of a 1984 campaign by gays and lesbians to support striking miners – live up to the lofty standards set by those other films?

In a word, “yes”.


Out now on Blu-ray and DVD now, Pride focuses on the London chapter of “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners”, and the small Welsh village of Onllwyn whose miners they set out to help. LGSM was a nationwide effort by lesbians and gay men to support the thousands of coalminers who, at the time, were striking over government plans to close 75 coal pits and axe around 64,000 jobs. (Actually, at the time, the government announced plans to close just 20 pits, resulting in the loss of around 20,000 jobs; the real extent of the plans wasn’t known until last year.)


Rather than donating directly to the miners’ union, whose funds were being controlled by Margaret Thatcher’s government, LGSM encouraged the formation of several smaller, local support groups who would then “twin” with mining communities across the UK. But the London group, founded at the city’s 1984 Pride march, was the first to put such a radical new idea to the test.
What you have to remember is, the 1980s weren’t just a rough time for miners: the newly-discovered, poorly-understood Aids virus was tearing through gay communities worldwide, and equal rights for LGBT people were but a dim glow on the horizon (Thatcher would go on to introduce Section 28, an controversial amendment that prohibited local authorities "promoting" homosexuality and described gay family relationships as “pretend” – it led to the formation of LGBT charity Stonewall in 1989).
Here were two groups of people facing many of the same struggles but, as you might expect, the mining communities didn’t immediately warm to the idea of gays and lesbians fighting their corner. And that – the initial awkwardness, the period of “warming up”, and the fresh wave of embarrassment (on both sides) caused by an alleged Sun exposé on “pits and perverts” – is what makes Pride so interesting, so touching, and ultimately so loveable.

I say “loveable” because, eventually, these people did manage to put their differences aside. People of all ages, and from all backgrounds, came together to fight for a common goal. They made lasting friendships. People from Onllwyn travelled to London to take part in a benefit concert and sample the city’s thriving gay scene. In the end, the London LGSM alone raised £11,000 for the miners and their families – the equivalent of more than £30,000 today – while miners’ labour groups quickly became the most outspoken supporters of LGBT rights in the UK.

The film has a nice boldness and energy to it – a bit like a gay pride march, actually – and aside from one slightly draggy, broody bit in the second half, the story moves along at a decent clip. Of course, a great story is nothing without a great cast to back it up, but with Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine, Russell Tovey, and a whole host of other stars on board, that just isn’t a problem for Pride. Literally the only, nitpicky problem I could find was that relative newbie Ben Schnetzer’s gay-acting really, really reminded me of Little Britain’s “only gay in the village”, Daffyd Thomas.
See? I told you it was nitpicky.


But that’s to be expected when a film like this comes along. One as loveable and pure as Pride, I mean – one that spends its entire two-hour runtime making you grin. Making you hopeful. A film where one of the most powerful moments of tension comes from one woman passive-aggressively staple-gunning an LGSM poster to a noticeboard while another woman glides towards her, angrily setting out ashtrays. One where a thoughtful old lady presents “her lesbians” with the vegan packed lunch she’s prepared for them. A joyful, lovely little story that focuses on the good in the world, rather than the bad – the brave comings-out, tentative first kisses, and small victories… not the hurtful comments and gloomy circumstances.

I’m giving Pride a well-deserved 5/5.

★★★★★

Mike Lee


Pride at CeX


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