The UK film industry has a track record of producing clichéd feel-good films about underdogs being pushed around; The Full Monty, Brassed Off, Made in Dagenham and Billy Elliott are key examples here, and Pride now adds itself to the list. Pride could have been quite a serious, emotional drama, but thankfully, and quite rightly, it favours a more light-hearted and amusing tone.
Matthew Warchus’ film is set during the Miners’ Strike of 1984-85, and embroils a group of lesbian and gay activists, led by Mark Ashton (brilliantly played by Ben Schnetzer), who want to raise money for a group of miners in South Wales, under the name ‘Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners’ (L.G.S.M).Their reasoning is simple: homosexuals and miners alike are oppressed by the government and the press, so why not support one another?
They are then met by a representative of a Welsh mining community, Dai (Paddy Considine) who mistakes the “L” in the group’s acronym, as standing for London. Dai accepts the help and donations of L.G.S.M; unfortunately some miners of the Welsh village of Onllwyn are not entirely content with the idea of allowing homosexuals to openly support them. In keeping with the established formula of this particular strain of filmmaking, this leads to humorous culture-clashing scenes, such as a woman of the mining community asking if all lesbians are vegetarians and a gloriously camp Jonathan (Dominic West) who strangely and successfully manage to unite most of the people (mainly the women for most of the men stand at the union bar looking envious and shell-shocked) in the village hall with his eccentric dance moves.
Those joining the L.G.S.M group include Joe (George MacKay), an impressionable student who has not yet come out to his parents and hides his radical activities by telling them that he’s taking a course in Sioux pastry. Joe’s account could have been the centre of the film’s attention but in Pride he is just one of an ensemble; Stephen Beresford’s screenplay is eloquently and admirably constructed around several characters so that no one actor is allowed to dominate. The mining town is represented by a great cast, including Considine as Dai, Imelda Staunton as Hefina and Bill Nighy (playing Bill Nighy with a Welsh tinged accent) as Cliff, all of whom have their own key parts in which to provide great performances and help to steer the plot in the right direction. All contribute to a film that is great fun to watch and at times rather moving.
Pride presents us with these stories in a calm and measured way that avoids the tendency towards sentimentalism into which such “feel-good” dramas often lapse. However, the film suffers slightly for having a strong simplistic political agenda – “good vs evil” or left triumphing over right, which some may wish to question. The celebratory scenes in the film which has all the workings of a West-End musical. Some moments may even remind viewers of scenes in, for example, Les Miserables, such as the point in Pride where a lone Welsh woman stands up in the union hall and starts singing an anthem, causing the whole union hall to erupt into a grand Welsh chorus. Anyone expecting a rendition of “Do you hear the people sing?”, however, will be disappointed.
Even if there are clichés, Pride rises above them and is still a pleasant film well worth watching, primarily for the characters, the elevating storyline, its idealism (people working together regardless of class or sexuality), for making the 1980s look more colourful than on BBC archival footage, and the fact that you may never, ever see another film with such a side-splitting moment as when Imelda Staunton laughs hysterically whilst holding a sex-toy in one hand and a gay porn mag in the other.