It’s been a while since I was able to watch a movie with a grin on my face, not from slapstick funny moments like walking into doors, but from clever writing and genuine heart-felt moments. Pride, a comedy-drama by British theatre Director Matthew Marchus, left that aforementioned grin on my face for the rest of the evening and even as I type this the day after, I am still smiling.
Set during the mining strikes of 1984-85, Pride follows a band of lesbian and gay protesters who see a common cause in mining strikers who are being discriminated against and decide to raise awareness and funds, even if they are not wanted at first. It surprises me that a movie claiming to be based on a true story that offers so many feels has taken this long to hit the big screen, but then again its timing, a shot while after a certain Iron Lady has passed, may not be a coincidence.
Pride starts off introducing us to fictitious character Joe (George MacKay, Defiance), who’s primary role appears to be as a bridge between the audience and the conflict the miners and supporting group LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) encounter. The usual closet-case character living between two worlds; one of society’s expectations and that of his own sexuality, are dealt with by director Matthew Marchus with surprising delicacy in what could have fallen into a stereotypical ‘phoenix from the fires’ story. Indeed the whole movie could easily have fallen into a deep the pit of sentimentality but instead is held in balance by solid acting, humour and character development.
Joining our Joe is openly gay and confrontational Mark, played by American actor Ben Schnetzer (The Book Thief). Let me just stop here to say that his performance is nothing short of amazing. Able to manifest his desperate desire to be accepted under a simmering frustration that wants to burst forth, he leads our plight with confidence and passion. Joining our two main heroes (Joe is a fictional character while Mark is based on a real person) is a troupe of characters that will have you laughing and crying in equal measures.
After LGSM fail to win over the mining community they decide to descend on a small village and do things from the ground up, leading to many a skirmish as can be expected. In the middle of this confrontation are those who do accept the help of this marginalised gay and lesbian community. Miner wife Marion (Monica Dolan) has the unenviable task of trying to convince her husband and fellow miners that LGSM are there to help and are not ‘perverts’ like some in the community would have them believe. She is backed up by Dulais (Imelda Staunton, Maleficent), a lovable community leader; Considine, an understated poet with an obvious secret played by the ever brilliant Bill Nighy (Love Actually), and a rather naughty Gwen (Menna Trussler, Plots with a View) who has some of the best lines in the movie, like “Your gays have arrived” or “Where are my lesbians”! Expect a lot of Full Monty humour.
Pride doesn’t challenge the viewer with any unique narrative conventions, rather it follows that old formulaic romance style, flipping from happy to not so happy to resolution of more happiness! From the totally fabulous dance scene where Jonathan (played superbly by Dominic West of The Wire fame) goes full ‘dance god’ to 70’s hit Shame Shame Shame the audience rarely has to struggle with getting swept up in the moment. And that is what makes Pride work so well. It deals with serious issues, issues that are still prevalent today, but in a manner that isn’t forced down your throat. There are some truly touching moments that express so much more than you at first understand, my favourite being one between Mark and his former boyfriend played by Russell Tovey from Being Human.
As I have said the movie is light-hearted in many regards but it doesn’t pull any punches either when dealing with big issues. From a flippant and rather offensive ‘joke’ about AIDS from Joe’s father to the very obvious divide of ‘are you with the miners or against’, the movie is clear in what it is exploring and in what it is portraying and you don’t need a high IQ to ‘get it’. Even the music (which is awesome) plays a very central role in Pride. Whether it be the rousing song that the miners start singing to the punk rock played at the Pits and Perverts fund raising concert, everything is executed in a coherent manner that comes through naturally.
Pride really pushes the idea of working class being salt of the earth and marginalised as being innocent victims and this black and white polemic may be a bit much for some. However, the movie is not trying to change the world, rather remind people that we are all different and perhaps instead of attacking that we should embrace it. With a cast of actors that truly bring their characters alive, the underlining charm of Pride is almost palpable and will leave you feeling optimistic and happy for hours. Well worth a watch if you are feeling down or if you need an excuse to jump up on a table and do a little jiggle!
Pride is out on 16 January 2015.
Last Updated: January 5, 2015