Film Review – Pride

Directed: Matthew Warchus

Writer: Stephen Beresford

Starring: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West |

Trivia: A drag queen at the concert wears a placard identifying herself as “Martha Scargill”. This is a reference to Arthur Scargill, who was president of NUM during the strike.

You know how some movies just catch your heart and “have you at “Hello”? Well, Pride is one of those movies.

I might have just missed it, unless my daughter insisted that I would see it. She knew that I’m always on the look for positive and uplifting movies. This lively tale of the unlikely union between striking Welsh miners and out-and-proud gay Londoners is definitely one that ticks all those boxes and is for any audience.

It is based on real people and events and is everything you could hope for from a well-written (by actor-turned-playwright Stephen Beresford), beautifully cast historical comedy-drama. It’s funny, moving and inspiring.

In dramatic terms, the strokes could hardly be broader. Playing to the widest possible audience, Pride employs reassuring cast and familiar Ealing comedy tropes in fine, broad-church fashion.

The soundtrack, too, wears its heart on its LP sleeve, blending songs of solidarity (Billy Bragg’s mighty rendition of There Is Power in a Union) with Greek chorus pop (from Shirley & Company to Frankie) climaxing in a Pits and Perverts benefit at the Electric Ballroom.
Meanwhile, down in the valleys, the miners’ wives stand and sing Bread and Roses, leaving not a dry eye in the house.

Normally movies based on true stories can cause apprehension. So many liberties are routinely taken that enjoyment becomes complicated. But this story beyond, the historical events it is based upon, has in its center a story about improbable friendship and conquered fears at impossible odds.

Pride, is Warchus’s second attempt at the movies and though it is far from perfect. In fact, it is sometimes heavy-handed, too obvious in both plotting and character development; it is an absolute joy to watch.

For example, in the Welsh village that the gay-lesbian group chooses to befriend, one single widow and her two adult sons carry the entire weight of homophobia. They are severe examples of this psychological disease.

Real life suggests a more gradual incline from acceptance down through tolerance and bewilderment towards the absolutism of homophobia. Warchus, working from a script by Stephen Beresford, also turns other characters into stereotypes instead of working with the grey tones between black-and-white extremes.

The movie taps some familiar tropes – closeted people, coming-out stories, flamboyant queers (a potent Dominic West, for example) teaching uptight miners to loosen up – but that just ups the pleasure factor.

From a point of view of screenwriting we get here a great example of how to use bookends in a story. Stephen Beresford’ uses two London Gay Pride marches to bookend the story.

During the first, activist Mark Ashton (charismatic Ben Schnetzer) gets the bright idea of collecting money for the miners from participants hardly sympathetic to men who are, if anything, hostile toward them.   

And during the second one, at the end of the movie, we get to see the miners coming to support the gays.

The ending titles tell us that although the strike was unsuccessful, in 1985 at the annual Labor Party conference, a motion was passed committing the center-left organization to a platform that for the first time included gay rights — all because of a unanimous voting block from the National Union of Mineworkers.

That’s a great way to tie up the movie.

Another example is how to intertwine between real people and fiction ones in a story that is based on real life events.

Most of the characters are based on real people, but Joe (George MacKay) is Beresford’s invention, someone who can serve effectively as both an audience surrogate in being introduced to the city’s gay culture just as viewers are, and as a major figure in the plot as well.

Some critics’ complained about the movie that it is excessively “feel-good” one and that embellishes the truth – and I say to that – what’s so wrong with extremely feel-good movies? Why does it have to be all serious and heavy?

The best way to learn anything is with fun and if we could have more movies that are fun and educational the better.

Warchus is a theatre director by trade, and Pride vibrates with the same energy and uplift as a great stage show. It chases applause, and earns it.

Verdict – 4.5/5 Stars in my book


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