Directed by Matthew Warchus
Comedy-drama based on a true story set in the summer of 1984 – when Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is on strike. At the Gay Pride March in London, a group of gay and lesbian activists decides to raise money to support the families of the striking miners. But there is a problem - the union seems embarrassed to receive their support. However the activists are not deterred. They decide to ignore the union and go direct to the miners. They identify a mining village of Onllwyn, in the Dulais Valley in Wales, and later set off in a mini bus to make their donation in person. And so begins the extraordinary story of two seemingly alien communities who form a surprising and ultimately triumphant partnership.
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★★★★½ review by Graham Williamson on Letterboxd
I was going to add a caveat to this review, to say that perhaps it wasn't a 4.5 film, but if you're queer, or if you're from one of those towns - you know, the ones with shops that you've never seen without the shutters down, the ones whose people are said to be "workshy" by people on TV despite the fact that some of the older residents still have scars on their head that they got from literally, physically fighting for the right to work - it will hit you like an atom bomb. (If you're both, like me, it will tear you apart like you're made of tissue paper)
And then I thought, why am I apologising? Am I wrong? What could the film have done better? There's the odd bit of clumsy exposition, though considering the complexity of the issues it's tackling it's surprising how little of that there is. It can be a bit over-fussy in finishing off all its plot strands, though the very last scene - the music, the content, the unexpectedly wonderful "here's what happened to these people afterwards" captions, which are never a highlight of anything and which are magnificent here - washes away all those objections. The most egregious thing is that it keeps mentioning Jonathan (Dominic West)'s theatre company without showing one of their productions, and it's hard not to wonder what the hell they were like. I'm picturing something in between Jean Genet and Action Image Exchange from Vic Reeves' Big Night Out.
Really, when you consider what the movie is trying to be - a mainstream comedy about class solidarity which conjures something warm and feelgood out of homophobia and the miner's strike, two of the greatest obscenities of British life in the 1980s - it's amazing how much of this is right, and how keenly Stephen Beresford keeps the personal and political themes interweaved. How many hundreds of ways could this have gone wrong, have been patronising and sentimental and reductive? How many ways could it have failed to live up to the true emotion of the real-life story at the film's core?
The obvious comparison point is to Billy Elliot, but I think Pride is a much better and more pointed film. Rather than a tale of escaping a community, Pride is about finding strength in togetherness, even when that puts you alongside people you don't seem to have anything in common with. This is incarnated in union leader Dai, played by the persistently excellent Paddy Considine. Hunched, nervous, timid, he knows absolutely nothing about gay culture and politics, but he's damned if that's going to stop him standing together with his unlikely supporters. Another film might consider the point of this story to be the friendships forged between gay activists and miners, but Beresford pushes through this to make the final objective one of political solidarity - and he makes that as moving and delightful as any of the character business.
I cannot praise the cast enough. Ben Schnetzner gives what should be a starmaking performance as the impish activist Mark. George MacKay damps down the swagger we saw in Sunshine on Leith and How I Live Now to become almost unrecognisable as the introverted, closeted Joe. Imelda Staunton tears through the film with relentless comic energy, Bill Nighy and Andrew Scott underplay to heartrending effect, Faye Marsay, Sophie Evans, Joseph Gilgun, Monica Dolan, Liz White... oh, they're all so wonderful. And I think I'm finally in love with Dominic West now. It was always sort of on the cards, but we've made it legal now.
★★★★★ review by Jay on Letterboxd
Review also posted on my blog
Director: Matthew Warchus
Screenwriter: Stephen Beresford
Based on a true story
Cast: Ben Schnetzer, Paddy Considine, Imelda Staunton, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Bill Nighy, George MacKay, Freddie Fox & Jessica Gunning
Runtime: 120 min // Certificate: 15
Alright, let’s start with a caveat. On a purely objective level, Pride has a number of problems. I get that. I know that the soundtrack is blunt and obtrusive, I accept that the script is sometimes more than a little mawkish, and I appreciate that the film is bedevilled by a tendency towards crudity and an oversimplification of one of the most divisive and difficult eras in British post-war history. I don’t deny any of these things. Indeed, I fully expected them and had already prepared myself for the inevitable worst, despite the film’s all but universal acclaim. And, now that I’ve seen it, I readily admit that it is far from perfect. I know it’s far from perfect. What I also know, however, is that Pride is perfect. Let me explain...
Ok, so you know that incomparable buzz you get when it feels like a film has been made specifically for you? You know what I mean, right? That sense of pure, unadulterated joy of feeling as though a writer and/or director have cracked open your head, taken a peek inside and decided to put all of your values, ideals and interests on the screen, so that you can devour and indulge them at your leisure? That’s what Pride is to me; a joyous, authentic and heartfelt excavation into the deepest recesses of my mind, and a film that appeals to every one of my crazy beliefs. In fact, if I didn’t know any better I’d wager that Matthew Warchus and Stephen Beresford have been spying on me for my entire life, such was this film’s ability to fondle every nook and cranny in my queer, pinko, Commie head...
In a similar vein to British classics like Brassed Off and The Full Monty, Pride offers a hilarious and heart-warming interpretation of a fraught and complicated era in Britain’s contemporary history. Set over the course of a single year, it tells the little-known story of the London branch of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), a campaigning and fundraising organisation that did exactly what it says on the tin. The film explores the initial reluctance of both the miners (specifically, the Dulais Valley mining community in South Wales) to accept help from LGSM, and of the lesbian and gay community to support a bunch of people who had never done anything to support them in the past, before racing along to the infamous December 1984 “Pits and Perverts” fundraiser (named as such in response to a headline in The Sun; a homophobic and ferociously pro-Thatcher tabloid rag), an event which brought thousands of pounds and countless new allies to the miners’ futile but admirably tireless cause and, more crucially, helped to cement a bizarre but beautiful friendship between LGSM and the miners that resulted in the National Union of Mineworkers not only leading the London Pride march in 1985 but also voting unanimously to pass a motion committing the Labour Party to LGBT equality at their conference in Bournemouth - the first time such a motion had ever gotten enough support to become an official manifesto pledge, and a real milestone in the battle for equality.
As you can see, the true story of LGSM is fascinating and though Pride fiddles about with the details a little bit it still captures the infectious spirit of this all but unparalleled display of comradeship and solidarity with an effortless and captivating passion. The film offers one of the most earnest portrayals of a working class community I’ve ever seen, and Matthew Warchus wears his devotion to and admiration for LGSM’s cause with – if you’ll excuse the pun – genuine pride. The film isn’t afraid or ashamed to indulge in some admittedly rose-tinted nostalgia, and I totally understand why some people might find that off-putting, yet at the same time there is a refusal on the part of both Warchus and Beresford to shy away from the difficulties that both groups faced in the shadow of an all-powerful enemy. As such, what Pride offers is a humorous if occasionally misty-eyed take on a turbulent period in British history without sacrificing too much of the “kitchen sink” realism that makes such stories so relatable to people of all ages and backgrounds.
Now, with a film like this it would be very easy to ignore the drama in favour of the comedy or vice-versa. Pride, however, is pitched and played absolutely perfectly. Not only is the film amusing, it is genuinely laughing-out-loud and rolling-in-the-aisles hilarious, and the jokes are properly witty. On the flip side, it’s also honest without ever being maudlin. There is a lot of stuff going on beneath the surface, and the film doesn’t try to hide from difficult issues like the HIV/Aids epidemic, the crisis of masculinity amongst the out-of-work miners, the rampant homophobia of the police, the press and the Government, or the death of radicalism and progressivism amongst lesbians and gays in the 21st Century. Sure, these things are never dwelled on but nor are they ignored or brushed under the carpet, and Warchus and Beresford do their utmost to ensure that we don’t forget them because they are the cornerstones upon which the fearless and often fruitless battles for the equal rights and social justice that so many people now take for granted were fought and ultimately won.
As you will no doubt expect from a film like this, Pride’s greatest strength lies not in its story but in its characters, all of who are properly fleshed out and complex. The film boasts a tapestry of unique and intimately-written characters, some of whom are based on real people (such as Sian James, the current Labour MP for Swansea East, and Mark Ashton, a leading LGSM activist whose life was one of many to be cut tragically short by HIV in the mid-80s), some of whom are composites and some of whom are simply invented. With so many personalities to juggle from both LGSM and the miners, it’s incredible just how complete each character feels, yet thanks to some seriously disciplined writing and a full-house of excellent performances, every single one of them gets their moment to shine. They’re all, with the exception of the “villain” of the piece, likeable and engaging, and they grant real believability and warmth to a story which can sometimes feel a little too extraordinary to be true.
Of course, it would be unfair of me to single just one of the stars out for praise because they’re all so bloody good, but a few of them do deserve a special mention. Schnetzer (The Book Thief), who plays Mark Ashton, is a complete revelation in a role that could easily have fallen victim to lazy stereotypes, while Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead) puts in his strongest performance in over a decade as one of the meek, modest and fragile members of the Dulais Valley community. Andrew Scott (The Stag) brings an element of striking tragedy to the proceedings in one of the film’s toughest roles, while George MacKay (For Those in Peril) dazzles as Joe, a shy and lonely young man who discovers real friendship amongst the members of LGSM and whose home life and social anxiety resonated with me to such an extent that I almost had a minor breakdown in the cinema. Imelda Staunton (Maleficent) is lovable and hilarious, Paddy Considine (Submarine) is utterly charming, while Jessica Gunning (Doctor Who) – who plays Sian James – is like the glue that holds both strands of the disparate tale together. Then there’s everyone else, and they’re all great too!
Also worthy of mention at this point is the soundtrack which, though a little obtrusive, is absolutely wonderful. If you’re a fan of 80s trash and/or socialist anthems, you’ll find the urge to tap your feet and mime along to it utterly irresistible. More than that, however, Pride’s soundtrack is a throwback to an era when music and musicians were a crucial element in the battle against rampant Thatcherism. The “Pits and Perverts” fundraiser, headlined by Bronski Beat, recalls a now long deceased tradition of artists standing up what they believed in, irrespective of the consequences. Look at the miserable state of both “the left” and the music industry in Britain today and tell me that a movement like Red Wedge could ever happen again. Of course it fucking couldn’t, and in that respect Pride’s soundtrack isn’t just brilliant, it’s also quite critical and pointed too.
For me, there are few better feelings in this World than being reminded exactly why I love cinema. Pride comes in the final few months of a year absolutely crammed with misfires and mediocrities, and I cannot stress enough just how delighted I am that it was able to reinvigorate my waning passion for the form. Is it a 5-star film on a technical level? No, of course not (though it’s still a very decent 4...) Nevertheless, on a personal level, Pride is my favourite film of the year and I cannot praise it enough. It’s joyous, hilarious, dramatic and progressively-minded, yet at the same time it’s cautious, critical and – at times – quite heart-breaking. There’s a cameo by Russell Tovey towards the start of the final act that shook me to the core and turned my blood ice cold, and the final few moments reduced me to a pitiful wreck as the simultaneously harsh and hopeful realities of the era came into clear focus for the first time.
Pride is the perfect antidote to the current state of both British politics and mainstream cinema. It is a rollicking and uproariously entertaining film about the power of friendship and the importance of solidarity, and it is utterly unashamed of its roots, which is hugely refreshing in itself. It’s infectious, hilarious and invigorating, and Stephen Beresford’s clear passion for the story he’s telling is matched only by his cast, all of whom seem fully committed to the tale and appear to be having an absolute ball. Whether you support the film’s ideals or not, Pride transcends cheap point-scoring and politicking in favour of honest and heartfelt storytelling and a focus on friendship in the face of insurmountable odds. If that sounds hokey then maybe it isn’t for you, but speaking as someone who generally has little to no time for foolish, misplaced nostalgia, Pride is one of the most inspiring films I’ve seen in years and I cannot recommend it enough.
And now I’m off to see it again, because as a bitter, cynical Trot who long ago gave up believing in the existence of proper, honest-to-God solidarity, I could do with another few injections of Pride quite frankly...
Review also posted on my blog
★★★★½ review by Travis Lytle on Letterboxd
"Pride" starts out as a nice film. The light-toned drama tells a nice story about gay and lesbian activists who, in 1984, begin to rally and raise money in support of striking Welsh miners. It is full of recognizable but nice story beats where the miners, somewhat begrudgingly, learn to accept the assistance of the activists and learn life lessons about tolerance and community.
At some point in its running-time, however, Matthew Warchus's film stops simply being nice. Its churning narrative parts begin to lead to something important. The weight of individual actions and united fronts combine, and the drama creates emotional thunderbolts. This dramatic and narrative shift makes "Pride," a film the would have gotten away with being nice, a film that is remarkable.
Stephen Beresford's script revolves around the gay and lesbian activists who found something simpatico in the movement of striking miners in Margaret Thatcher's UK and the mid-1980s. The narrative observes the different characters effected by the support of GLSM, the acronym self-given to the activists, both within and outside of the group.
The story is solid from the outset, albeit recognizable, but, when the plot and thematic beats lurking under the surface bubble forward, things build astonishing gravity. The miners are fighting a losing battle, and that losing battle parallels the gay and lesbian community's newfound battle with HIV and AIDS. The film, then, is more about teaching intolerant miners to learn tolerance through dance or other activities; it is about fulfilling lives that could be cut short and fighting the good fight. It is about understanding the strength in being authentic and the strength in giving authentically. It is about life and love, unity and community.
Warchus's film captures the mid-1980s with a straightforward clarity. The film is not awash in style, obtrusive or otherwise, and besides wardrobe and musical elements, there is somewhat classical quality to the look and feel of the production. Performances are uniformly strong. Ben Schnetzer is a handsome, steadfast lead, while the supporting cast that includes Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine, Dominic West, George MacKay, and Andrew Scott is excellently assembled. Jessica Gunning is a revelation in her role.
While it begins solidly but routinely, "Pride" ends with an emotional wallop that will catch its audience off-guard and results in a completely appealing experience. It is concurrently funny, warm, serious, and meaningful. It entertains, but at the film's core are life-affirming statements about doing good work and standing for something. It is an engaging surprise of a film with an out-sized heart and an inspiring soul.
★★★★★ review by mary🦋 on Letterboxd
So I’m sitting here, emotions all over my tiddies
★★★★ review by Esteban Gonzalez on Letterboxd
“When you're in a battle against an enemy so much bigger, so much stronger than you, well, to find out you had a friend you never knew existed, well, that's the best feeling in the world.”
Pride is Matthew Warchus’s third feature film and the first one since his 2004 musical, Our House. Pride isn’t a musical, but it surely feels like one with all the colorful characters and the lovable 80’s soundtrack. It was a surprisingly fun film with an upbeat message about solidarity. It is one of those rare crowd-pleasers that stands out from other films thanks to its strong cast and uplifting message. I never imagined a film focusing on the historic events that took place in the UK in 1984 when the miners were at strike and found an uncommon ally in the gay and lesbian activists could be so fun. We’ve had similar plots in the past where two groups come together in the aid of each other despite their differences, but I don’t think it has been done in such a contagiously joyful manner. Take last year’s Dallas Buyers Club for example where we get a contrasting alliance between a redneck cowboy and a group of gays suffering from AIDS. That was a much more serious film where we got some comedic moments due to the contrasting lifestyles, but Pride takes this similar premise of contrasting groups coming together and delivers a much more hilarious and uplifting film. It still delivers the message and despite being formulaic it manages to stand out thanks to its colorful characters that never lose their humanity. I can’t think of another film where a group of gay and lesbian activists aren’t just fighting for their own cause, but are actually invested in helping others who are going through a difficult moment. So it stands out in that it isn’t one of those films that is focused entirely on delivering a message in favor of gay rights, but rather focusing on the solidarity between these two groups. That is what makes this a much more humane story and one everyone an identify with. The way the film is portrayed feels like a musical at times and you actually want to dance along with some of the characters when the music plays. Pride is a film with a lot of heart that reminds us that despite our personal issues there are always others out there in need of our solidarity. Pride might feel a bit too sentimental at times, but it is a feel-good film nonetheless with some of the funniest scenes of any comedy released in 2014. There are also some dramatic moments where I literally got goose bumps because I was moved. It is well balanced and uplifting despite its flaws.
Some of my favorite moments in the film involved the clashing of these two contrasting groups. Despite their differences they learn to understand each other because they both have suffered from oppression. The cast couldn’t have been better. Ben Schnetzer gives an impressive performance as the gay activist who comes up with the idea of supporting this group and winning a new ally in the process, but the fun really kicks in when they interact with these miners from a small Welch community. This is where we are introduced to some great characters played by Paddy Considine, Jessica Gunning, Imelda Staunton, and Bill Nighy who are outstanding. Nighy really delivers by underplaying his character and proves that sometimes less is more. I enjoyed Gunning’s strong female performance and I look forward to seeing her in more films in the future. George MacKay also delivers as this young kid who hasn’t told his parents he’s come out (which is probably the most formulaic part of this film) so he lies to them about his activities. Andrew Scott and Dominic West also have some endearing moments on screen together. The best thing about Pride is without a doubt the strong cast which thanks to the rich screenplay by Stephen Beresford are given such colorful and interesting characters. It is a film that reminds us about our humanity and the importance of being solidary towards one another. It is both cheerful and earnest about its subject matter.
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