Release Date: 12th September 2014
Running Time: 120 minutes
Director: Matthew Warcus
Starring: Ben Schnetzer, George Mackay, Paddy Considine, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton,
As working Brits are put under pressure by a Conservative-led government yet again, it’s not surprising that we should see a return to the grassroots political activism that was so prolific in the 80s. Cast from the same mould as Brassed Off, Pride continues a cinematic tradition that promotes positive socialism by celebrating working-class solidarity in the face of oppression. Based on a true story as these tales often are, it recounts a unique and oft-forgotten piece of history: that of LGBT activists coming to the aid of the miners during the strikes of 1984 and 85.
Having been victims of institutionalised hatred themselves, a small group of lesbian and gay activists turn their attention to the miners after witnessing their struggle. Leader of the LGSM (Lesbians and Gays support the Miners) is the charismatic Mark (Schnetzer), who sets about winning the support of the gay community to raise financial aid, despite being met with hostility from both sides. Undeterred, his efforts are rewarded when a remote mining community in Wales accept their donations and extend an invitation for them to meet. Their initial visit is met with a frosty awkwardness, but over time they form a bond that is as beneficial to the miners as it is to their own cause.
Director Matthew Warcus’ theatrical background is clear from the start, with his cheerful lighting and liberal use of slightly garish music to accompany the action. However this has also enabled him to handle a large cast, and he does so effortlessly as he deftly gives each character a chance to develop. Whether they need to overcome the ‘shame’ of hiding in the closet (George Mackay), to confront their past (Andrew Scott) or simply to learn how to dance, everyone has a tangible arc of some kind. This is where Pride most succeeds; in giving us a wealth of people in which we can find a likeness. This is enhanced by some fantastic performances. In a slightly more peripheral role than the marketing would suggest, Bill Nighy is understated and brilliant as a proud man whose livelihood is being destroyed before him, whereas 9th billed Ben Schnetzer carries much of the plot, and does so with confidence. The rest of the cast are almost uniformly excellent too: Dominic West, Andrew Scott and Imelda Staunton in particular are stand outs, but there are many more to enjoy.
In constructing a story that appeals to the humanity in all of us, Pride plays to the broadest audience possible. This creates a slightly frustrating dichotomy whereby in its greatest triumph lie many of its niggling flaws. Much of it is clearly sugar coated in order to keep the tone as light as possible, which in doing so brings a welcome comedic flavour to proceedings, although at times it could do with an injection of realism. It lacks edge, and some of the characterisation relies a little too heavily on cliché and stereotypes. The lesbians in this are also sidelined and at one point openly mocked for being feminists, which despite the excuse of this being part of the ‘true story’, feels belittling and exasperating.
Overall though what Pride is missing in bite, it makes up for in heart, and it certainly has plenty to go round. It may sound like the treading of familiar ground, but whereas the likes of Billy Elliot may feel a bit ‘grim up North’, its celebration of diversity and community allow it to avoid such pitfalls. Pride might not be perfect, but it deserves to do well. Let’s hope it finds its audience.