Film review of ‘Pride’

Can take pride of place among the British classics

This is a curious release for the summer season, but nevertheless a welcome reprieve from all the superheroes and sci-fi schlock.

This unassuming British offering directed by Matthew Warchus and first-time writer Stephen Beresford is inspired by incredible real events that occurred during the miner’s strike of 1984. It’s a strange beast – ostensibly fury and fire with regards to the legacy of Margaret Thatcher – that delivers its indictment on a current of observed comedy and relative calm. As a depiction of social upheaval and civil unrest, it contains very few scenes of violence or sex.

Minor helping miners
We observe the events through the eyes of 20-year-old Joe (Mackay), a closet homosexual who just a year shy of the legal age of consent befriends a group of gay rights activists. So when they head off to some threatened pits, he follows as a minor who wants to help miners, a group who couldn’t be any more different, but with whom they share a common enemy in the Iron Lady and her domestic policies.

The actions begins as the group’s charismatic founder Mark Ashton (Schnetzer) organises a successful fundraiser for striking miners, who by that point are running out of money and struggling to make ends meet. But the group quickly discovers that prejudice against homosexuals is such that it prevents any of the miner unions they contacted from accepting the money they have raised.

That is until Mark makes contact with Dai (Considine), a representative from a miners’ union in Onllwyn in the Dulais Valley, South Wales. When a minibus descends on the remote rural village, carrying a gaggle of London’s gays and lesbians who all hope to meet the beneficiaries of their hard work, history is made.

Payback for the Brit invasion
The cast is an impressive collection of talent, from industry stalwarts like Paddy Considine, Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy giving notable turns, to relative newcomers such as Jessica Gunning and George Mackay. The narrative balances this large roster of characters surprisingly well, given the time spent on each of their story strands.

None stand out more than Ben Schnetzer who plays the communist co-founder of LGSM (Lesbians and Gays support The Miners), Mark Ashton. Schnetzer commits himself fully, giving an intelligent, full-blooded performance which is all the more impressive considering he convincingly pulls off Northern Irish, when in fact he’s American. With all the on-screen British talent working in the States playing American characters, it’s about time the UK experienced the other side of the exchange (Renee Zellweger’s Bridget Jones notwithstanding).

Fresher than marigolds
While nothing in Pride cries ‘cinema’ and it would be equally at home on BBC4 as it is on the big screen, it’s refreshing to see such a prestigious cast involved in a project as worthwhile as this one – as opposed to a Richard Curtis romcom or another The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel sequel.

There’s also a sense that the real events have had some of their rougher edges smoothed over for the sake of reaching a wider audience: the result being a fuzzy, warm cuddle of a film, but effective and genuinely moving nonetheless.

There is plenty one could pick at, but with a film so well-meaning and successful in its primary goal of underlining the importance of these events, it seems pedantic to do so.

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