: Pride

Pride

Glenn Osboldstone

PrideDirected by Matthew Warchus. Starring Bill Nighy; Paddy Considine and Imelda Staunton; eOne films 2014; 120 mins

The working-class destroying policies of Margaret Thatcher may be said to have spawned its own mini film industry. Films such as The Full Monty, Billy Elliot and the extraordinarily moving Brassed Off all depict life during the 1984-85 UK miners’ strike where Thatcher waged a vicious war using all the tools of state oppression, including draconian laws against the workers protesting the pit closures and the loss of their livelihoods. Those films show the desperate means that retrenched workers often have to go to in order to keep food on their families’ tables and all feature plenty of wonderful music.

In a similar vein, and set in the same period, Pride tells a fictionalised version of the true story of the London gay and lesbian activist group that, seeing likenesses between the repressive tactics meted out to the miners and their own fates, resolved to raise money for the striking miners and their families. They drive up north in a funky van and try to lend a hand. After initially encountering homophobia and mistrust, the group (‘Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners’ or LGSM) finally found a village in Wales that accepted its help, despite the group’s arrival initially being met with a mixture of shock and divided feelings all around — a classic British culture-clash.

This warm and moving fictionalisation of real events is directed by Matthew Warchus from a script by Stephen Beresford. Warchus is perhaps best known for his Shakespearean theatre productions and a massive stage adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, though he also directed the movie adaptation of Sam Shepard’s play Simpatico in 1999. Beresford weaves together an array of storylines, starting with the Welsh villagers including Cliff (Bill Nighy) the taciturn embodiment of stoic Welsh resolve, union rep Dai (Paddy Considine – Hot Fuzz, The World’s End), and feisty and progressive tea lady Helfina (Imelda Staunton – Maleficent, Vera Drake).

The LGSM was led by the real-life activist, Northern Irishman Mark Ashton (played by Ben Schnetzer – The Book Thief) who eloquently explains in the film that he never understood fighting for gay rights and not for any other rights. There is also shy, young photographer Joe (George MacKay) who is still in the closet and an older gay couple, Gethin (Andrew Scott) and HIV-positive Jonathan (Dominic West – perhaps best known for his stellar work as Det McNulty on The Wire), who has one of the musical highlights of the film, dancing along to ‘Shame, Shame, Shame’ by Sylvia Robinson and made famous by Shirley and Company. Another stand out is Faye Marsay (The White Queen) as the group’s first lesbian.

Most of the action is set around the village’s miners’ club and Warchus does a fine job in recreating the mid-80s, post-disco feel, including a wonderful benefit concert. The use of archival footage provides important and useful context, while the cinematography is wonderfully evocative in portraying the stark beauty of the Welsh countryside.

Pride is an upbeat, feel-good, emotionally-charged movie that does more than temporarily lift your spirits — it makes you feel a little better about the world and about the human capacity to set aside differences and join together in a mutual struggle against oppression. If only the world always operated like this… It deservingly won the 2014 Queer Palm (an independently sponsored prize for selected LGBTI-relevant films entered into the Cannes Film Festival – the awesomely named Bruce La Bruce being on the jury this year). Plus the music is great.

GLENN OSBOLDSTONE is a Victorian lawyer who may (or may not) remember the rule of Margaret Thatcher, but appreciates good cinema, especially when the credits roll and he’s left with a song in his heart and a smile on his lips.

(2014) 39(4) AltLJ 282
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