Director: Matthew Warchus
Starring: Ben Schnetzer, George MacKay, Faye Marsay, Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Dominic West, Paddy Considine, Andrew Scott
If you liked ‘Billy Elliot’ or ‘The Full Monty’ then you’ll probably like ‘Pride’. Set in 1984 and based on a true story (all the best stories are); British lesbian and gay activists – this is long before the LGBTIQ movement – raise money to support the miners during the UK miners strike. Reluctant to accept money from the divisive group, a small mining community in the depths of Wales eventually overcomes prejudice and accepts the financial support in a blaze of controversy. This is a gorgeous little gem of a film, but don’t take my word for it, it was awarded 7.8/10 on IMDb and 7.6/10 on Rotten Tomatoes. Unfortunately, I totally missed this sleeper hit when it came out, but I’m just glad I got to enjoy it at all.
Name something terrible that Imelda Staunton has appeared in? How about Bill Nighy? OK, there was that dodgy vampire role in ‘Underworld’ but he was pretty memorable as Billy Mack in ‘Love Actually’. Both of these stalwarts have significant roles in ‘Pride’ and pretty fabulous they are too. But the stars plural of this film, without a doubt, are Ben Schnetzer who plays Mark Ashton, George MacKay (Joe), Faye Marsay (Steph) and Joseph Gilgun (Mike). There are a couple of high profile appearances from Dominic West and Andrew Scott (Jim Moriarty in ‘Sherlock’) but they don’t actually steal the limelight from the other standout characters in this film.
The UK Miners Strike lasted from March 1984 to March 1985. A year of struggle, violence and conflict as families suffered under Thatcher’s bellicose regime. The main characters in the film – Mark, Steph and Mike – realise that the homophobic British press probably hates the miners about the same amount as they hate lesbians and gay men. Mark encourages everyone in their circle to align with the miners and raise money to support the starving families. In a move to break the miners’ union, the government sequestered all funding to ‘The National Union of Mineworkers’ meaning people would have to send funding directly to the needy. And that is pretty much what happens in the film – a busload of LGSM arrive at a miners meeting in a village hall in the middle of Wales to present their support. What follows is hilarious, dramatic, heartwarming and at least 80% true. There are touching vignettes, for example, Joe who is nearly 21, has been skipping college to hang out with Mark and Steph at the bookshop where they work – ‘Gay Is The Word’. Joe’s family have no idea that he is gay and the fallout when they eventually find out and confront him, is upsetting and indicative of the level of prejudice that beset people daily if they were anything other than straight.
Slowly the two groups form a close bond and the LGSM agree to organize a fund-raising concert in London for the miners. Called ‘Pits & Perverts’ – a reference to The Sun newspaper and their headline response to this most unlikely alliance. AIDS and its devastating impact in the early 80s is a subject that is touched on in the film revealing a fearful, uninformed and paranoid gay community. Throughout the film there is the theme of being on the outside and different to the rest. The miners are struggling to keep the ideal of community and solidarity while Margaret Thatcher declares that there is no such thing as society. In the cult of the self that is the 80s, these two very different groups of people came together to support each other and it makes for a very uplifting ending to the film when we see the miners marching in unity during Gay Pride 1985.
‘Britflicks’ are a very particular type of film that Britain (who else) does extremely well. There are tax implications with a Made In Britain film, there is also the cultural test for film (see the BFI website), Lottery funding and many other factors that decide a film’s Britishness – but there is always something inherently gritty and self-deprecating about the way the Brits do it. And ‘Pride’ fits into that descriptor perfectly. It took screenwriter Stephen Beresford twenty years of hard slog to get this film made. Director Matthew Warchus, best known for his theatre and musical productions, felt compelled to direct ‘Pride’ after reading Beresford’s “outstanding” script. Together they have taken an unbelievable true story and created something that everyone should see.