Get your flags, banners, and badges at the ready, because Pride is going to ignite the protester in all of you.
In 1984, when the National Union of Mineworkers led a strike against the Government’s plans to close twenty coal mines, they found support where no-one could ever have guessed they would. Pride is the heartwarming true story of how a group of gay and lesbian misfits from London latched onto a small Welsh mining community, bringing their banners, buckets and Bronski Beats to the depressed Dulais valley.
Anyone who lived through the 1980s will have memories of the bitter resentment, anger and, most importantly, the camaraderie that spread throughout the UK as thousands of miners’ livelihoods were threatened by pit closures. The news was full of mass walk-outs, violent clashes, and headlines screaming “Three Million Unemployed”. Looking back from a distance of thirty years, it’s easy to forget that these were real people suffering real devastation. Pride refuses to let us look away from that. Amongst the plentiful laughs, there are moments of real poignancy that force us to acknowledge the harsh realities of life for miners and for anyone brazen enough to be gay in the 1980s. AIDS, homophobia, and the struggle between ethics and morality are all examined here, and don’t expect any rose-tinted views. Life can be grim, and Pride doesn’t shy away from its dirtier parts. Having said that, the laughs are full belly laughs, courtesy of giant purple dildos, Dominic West’s snake hips and the elderly rediscovering the joys of porn. Thankfully, not all at the same time.
Closeted catering student Joe (George MacKay) first meets strong-willed and out-and-proud activist Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) at a London Pride march. Joe’s tentative toe in the water turns into full-scale thrashing in the deep end when Mark forms the awkwardly-named Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners to raise money for another persecuted minority. His attempts aren’t always welcomed, as many are disgusted by the idea of supporting the very demographic who have previously attacked them for being gay, but Mark ploughs on. The group, also consisting of the wonderfully camp Jonathan (Dominic West), long-suffering Mike (Joseph Gilgun), cynical Steph (Faye Marsay) and sombre but incredibly sweet Gethin (Andrew Scott), travel to the Welsh valleys to personally deliver their cash and support. It’s not always plain sailing, but the result is uplifting without succumbing to over-egged sentimentality.
Director Matthew Warchus has captured the nostalgia for the era beautifully. Once you’re swept up in the heady sounds of Heaven 17, the paisley-decorated front rooms and gelled quiffs that reach proudly for the Artexed ceilings, this tale of unlikely heroes will crack even the hardest of hearts. This is the first feature film for Last of the Haussmans playwright Stephen Beresford, who, allegedly, pitched Pride as an afterthought during a meeting with producer David Livingstone. When asked which story he would really like to tell, Beresford launched into the tale of how LGSM raised over £11,000 in support of the miners’ strikes. Clearly, Beresford’s passion did it justice, as a misty-eyed Livingstone commissioned the film there and then. In the same vein as other British films such as Brassed Off, Billy Elliot, and The Full Monty, Pride tackles the destruction of an industrial community with subtle humour and without trivialising the devastation it left behind.
Pride is bursting with enough talent to leave casting agents making desperate grabby hands, and every single character is so rich and diverse that you’re often left wanting more. Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy are pitch perfect, delivering heartfelt performances that give you just enough background to make them feel complete, as do Jessica Gunning and the always-brilliant Paddy Considine. However, there are gems in here that mean Pride could easily be half an hour longer. It sometimes feels that glaring chunks of Mark, Mike, and Gethin’s backstories are missing, although special mention must go to Andrew Scott’s ability to show an incredible range of emotion without uttering a single word. Talented, that one.
Every single thing about Pride will leave you wanting to raise your fist in support. From the rousing and impassioned speeches, right past the staunch loyalty of the working class wives and all the way through to the sweaty depths of the Pits and Perverts fundraiser, the thread of solidarity that runs throughout is simply too strong to resist. Take your friends. Take your mum, your grandparents and the cousins you haven’t seen in years. You won’t regret it.