Film review by Jason Day of the comedy drama set during the 1980’s miners’ strike and starring Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton.
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A group of gay activists led by young and highly political Mark (Schnetzer) work to help a group of Welsh miners during the lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984. Despite initial opposition from more traditional members of the miners’ community and some outright hostility, they work to win mutual respect through the long months.
Review, by Jason Day
Continuing the long, illustrious and financially successful breed of quintessentially British, working-class, comfy-as-comfy-slippers ‘dramedies’, from Brassed Off (1996), to Billy Elliott (2000) and beyond, is this account of a previously hitherto neglected true story.
It’s a tale with a winning small-towners-meet-London-queers slant that deserved to be told. For a modern-day, thirtysomething gayer such as myself who has only a dim recollection of the events that happened, caught from snippets of the sometimes violent confrontations on TV news, this is especially relevant.
Given that there are still countries around the world where gays, lesbians and transsexuals can be legally imprisoned or put to death for their sexual identities, it is a pertinent aide memoir that there is still much to be done in terms of LGBT rights, even though in this country gay people’s quality of life has massively changed since the decriminalisation of gay sex in the 1960’s.
Pride is a film that clearly and, of course, proudly wears its heart on its sleeve. From the opening credits sequence when the film’s title is painted in huge letters over a brick wall, following a montage of archive footage of those confrontations, to Considine’s impassioned and very moving speech at the Vauxhall Tavern (one of London’s oldest and busiest of gay haunts), you have an unashamed upwelling of emotion. Even this usually cold of cold film critics was openly affected.
But more than just being a chronicle of a time and an event and a way of thinking, Pride is a very funny film about people’s interactions and acceptance of each other. Staunton is on fine form as a strident Welsh housewife who has no time for homophobia, so focused is her mission to save a community.
Nighy has quiet dignity by the coal skip-load as a closeted member of the Welsh village, as does Considine as the Miner’s leader who unwittingly approaches the gay activists but completely embraces their support.
But it’s the young cast who are most impressive with some dazzling performances, especially Schnetzer as their unofficial chief and MacKay as an unsure suburban lad who needs coaxing out of the closet.
There are some unconvincing aspects of the film. It may have happened, it may not, the Welsh housewives visit to the gay S&M club despite being funny seems ridiculous. Irrespective, the gay concert and mainstream club were sufficient on their own to show how these women can happily let their hair down anywhere.
Whether straight housewives in rural Welsh communities of the mid-80’s freely used more ‘modern’ words such as prejudiced to their husbands I will never know with any certainty, but it strikes a note of falsity in an otherwise delightfully rousing and frequently hilarious screenplay.
Director: Matthew Warchus.120mins. Pathe/BBC Films/Proud Films/BFI et al. (15)
Cast & credits
Producer: David Livingstone.
Writer: Stephen Beresford.
Camera: Tat Radcliffe.
Music: Christopher Nightingale.
Sets: Simon Bowles.
Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Paddy Considine, Ben Schnetzer, Andrew Scott, Freddie Fox, George MacKay, Faye Marsay.