Director: Matthew Warchus
Starring: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Paddy Considine, Andrew Scott, Joseph Gilgun, George MacKay
Written by: Stephen Beresford
Running Time: 120 mins
Release date: 12th September 2014
If there is one thing that British cinema is very good at producing, its feel-good comedy dramas based around real events. The miners strike in the 80’s has already featured in two massive successes: Brassed Off and Billy Elliott. Now comes Pride, the true story of how a group of gays and lesbians in London, came to support a Welsh mining community. Does it manage to do pull off another charmer? It certainly does.
1984, at the height of the crippling miners strike and a band of gays and lesbians, led by Mark, decide it’s not enough to raise money for their own cause but a group that are suffering from the same police violence and same prejudice that they have: the miners. Unable to get the unions to accept the money they raised and feeling down-hearted, they take a different approach and pick on a village instead. While some members of the community are grateful for the cash, a large majority don’t want anything to do with the homosexual supporters so this band of money-raising warriors have to win the hearts and minds of the unaccepted.
This has all the hallmarks of a traditional British comedy-drama: the underdogs trying to win, the mix bag of eccentric characters, the emotional punches scattered throughout followed by gallons of feel-good goo that manages to stay this side of sickening. Not forgetting the political message that isn’t rammed down your throat but you know exists.
Pride ticks all the boxes of a massive crowd pleaser. A cast made up of stalwarts of British cinema mixed with a talented band of youngsters. A setting in a time that isn’t alien to a large proportion of the audience (a scene in which a character is spreading Stork margarine on bread had a woman in the audience saying “I used to have a tub like that!”) with a heady mix of beautiful scenery and a soundtrack that was made up of classic 80’s pop.
At the centre of this is a story line about people who, for no fault of their own, are looked upon as outsiders. Director Matthew Warchus and screen writer Stephen Beresford could have headed down the stereotype, generalization route when it came to the gay community but we don’t get the massively flamboyant, the overly effeminate. Instead, they and the young cast are playing it straight (if you see what I mean). That image of the over-the-top, massively theatrical gay doesn’t exist largely and it would have been very easy for them to follow those stereotypes. Instead, these are like a youth group on a crusade, with the thinking that these simple folks in the village are exactly like them. Persecuted for who they are.
The villagers start off as blinkered and refuse to accept them but with a passion for the cause and energetic enthusiasm, they eventually win the hearts and minds of most, although the fear of AIDS hangs heavy in some eyes. Again, this is sensitively handled. Sometimes the film feels slightly too safe, not wanting to cause controversy so we are not shown anything too graphic or shocking. Then again it’s not the point of the film. It’s a tale of equals with, as the title says, Pride.
The performances are universally terrific. The young cast, led by Ben Schnetzer as Mark and George MacKay as Joe manages to win our attention almost immediately, while the most established members, Bill Nighy, playing against type as quietly spoken, Cliff, Imelda Staunton as the bulldog chairperson, Hefina and Paddy Considine as Dai, all bring their confidence to the table, creating nicely rounded characters. Dominic West, however, as the former actor, Jonathan, seems to relish the chance to throw caution to the wind and camp it up, with a hilarious dance routine.
Sometimes the film does crash headlong into contrivance but you can forgive it. A fascinating story of events that happen, with that ‘leave the cinema with a grin on your face’ finale, this is funny and dramatic in equal measures and fans of Brassed Off or Billy Elliott, or the countless other home-grown films of this kind (Calendar Girls, Made In Dagenham, Bend It Like Beckham) will have a ball. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll leave singing Bronski Beat. An absolute joy.