Pride: Film review
There are some films that I'll sit down and watch to the bitter end, without fail, whenever they come on the telly and regardless of what point I come in. To me that's either testament to great writing, or at least indicates a firm favourite. Pride, a British comedy-drama from 2014, is one of my watch-to-the-end films, and I genuinely consider it a modern classic. In my opinion it's massively underrated, very possibly because of it's subject matter. The true story of how a group of LGBT Londoners and a Welsh mining community came together during the miners' strike of the 1980's and struck a blow for solidarity and friendship, it's an uplifting, funny, warm-hearted film with a fantastic cast and a great message about sticking up for others even when it's not 'your' fight. It's fifty years since being gay became legal in the UK, and there has been a lot in the papers and on TV this week to celebrate that fact. So, I thought it was a good time to review Pride, but as I say, anytime is a good time to watch it.
The story begins during the height of the miners' strike, when a young, gay man named Mark Ashton (Ben Shnetzer, The Book Thief) comes to the realisation that the mining communities are being bullied by the press and the government and are facing the same kind of discrimination that the gay community usually has to deal with. He knows how it feels and he wants to help, which leads to the creation of support group LGSM - or 'Lesbians and Gays support the miners.' The miners and the LGBT community are unlikely allies, and Mark struggles to get others behind his idea at first or to find a mining community who'll accept the group's help and support. That is until he gets in contact with Dai Donovan (Paddy Considine) who invites the group back to Wales and into his world. As an audience, we're first brought into the world of the 1980's gay community by protagonist and wide-eyed every-man George MacKay (Sunshine on Leith, 11.22.63) who is still officially in the closet and meets Mark and his friends on his first, tentative, gay pride march. However, the film really hits it's stride when we meet the Welsh contingent, including Imelda Staunton's no-nonsense matriach Hefina, Jessica Gunning 's emerging political activist and Bill Nighy playing against type as....an old man. Yes, technically he is an old man, but he usually plays sharp, up-right, old men, not the shy and sweet kind, and here he is totally transformed. This section is where most of the great set pieces are, both comedic (Dominic West's dance scene - another actor playing against type in a fantastic, transformative performance) and moving (the bit where they sing 'Bread and Roses' makes me cry every. single. time.) but the pace is constant and the scenes entertaining throughout.
The thing I love most about Pride is it's warmth. The eighties politics were divisive and the attitude towards the gay community was of intolerance and vitriol. However, the film makes a great case for everyday human kindness. It's not grim or morbid, although the characters are put into situations where you'd normally expect something awful to happen: you think maybe the miners would beat the gays up and expel them from their clubs. Or the young, liberal and metropolitan gay kids would be scornful of the small-town macho men and their wives. But no. When it comes to the crunch, and after some initial awkwardness and pettiness, they're all nice to each other. They learn from each other and they get behind each other's causes. And the best part is, it's a true story. If it wasn't, the whole plot would be considered hugely cheesy and unrealistic. It's such a triumphant and unlikely tale, especially the ending (which I won't ruin) that it's hard to believe it's all true. But it is, and it makes me feel so hopeful and happy about humanity.
As much as I love Pride, it does have a flaw. I think the main antagonists (other than the unseen bad guys like Thatcher and the press) are a bit two dimensional. They had to show the negative feeling towards LGSM continuing to exist from some quarters, but I thought it was a bit lazy to try and sum it all up in the person of one bigoted woman and her two sons. Saying that, I did like that elsewhere in the film, those who weren't wholly accepting of the main characters were treated fairly. I especially liked the scene (minor spoiler) where Andrew Scott 's character (Moriarty from Sherlock, who impressed me possibly more than anyone in this) talks to Imelda Staunton about his mother, who is religious and, he says, hasn't spoken to him in years. "And what was it you said to her?" Hefina asks him, indicating that maybe he shouldn't assume the worst. Maybe given the chance his mum could learn to be more tolerant and accept him. The film throughout encourages you to put a bit more faith in all kinds of people, and I like that.
Pride is a feel-good film if I ever I saw one. It's funny, celebratory and although it deals with serious issues throughout - discrimination, AIDS, politics and gender politics - it remains light-hearted, hopeful and thoroughly un-depressing. It's unashamedly socialist and pro gay-rights, so maybe if you're a hard-core Tory and ideologically opposed to homosexuality you wouldn't enjoy it so much. However, I think it's lovely and I defy anyone to be un-moved by the ending, or un-impressed by the warmth of the script and the quality of the acting talent. Would 100% recommend.
Have you seen Pride? What did you think? And what are your 'watch-to-the-end' films?