Britain in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher was not an easy time for minorities and people on the fringe of any stripe or creed; migrants, gays and lesbians, the homeless and destitute, all were brushed aside in pursuit of economic growth, left to find their own way in the name of social and economic reforms. On the streets of Thatcher’s London gay and lesbian activists rallied and marched, risking physical and verbal abuse, and worse, in the name of their rights: at the same time, all around the country, members of the National Union of Mineworkers were also in a fight for their rights and livelihoods after the conservative government reduced subsidies resulting in mine closures and job cuts. Pride is based upon the true story of how these two seemingly incompatible rights movements came together to support one another as a unified civil rights movement.
Set against the British miners’ strike of 1984 Pride digs deep into the rich seam of political activism that grew largely as a response to Thatcher’s draconian cuts. Britons were out in force fighting for their rights against the government in parliament and police in the street on a diverse range of issues from the growth of the military/industrial complex and the proliferation of nuclear weapons to the rights of the individual such as the gay rights movement.
Pride begins at London’s 1984 gay pride march where Joe, George MacKay, a young gay man, is thrust into the world of gay rights, specifically the protest movement of Mark Ashton and Mike Jackson’s Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM). Joe has yet to come out to his parents, with whom he still lives, and if Pride can be said to be anyone’s story it is the story of Joe, his coming out and acceptance of himself that acts as the film’s emotional through-line.
After fundraising with their friends from the gay community, Mark , Mike and Joe, along with Jonathan, impeccably portrayed by The Wire alum Dominic West, Gethin, Andrew Scott, and Steph, Faye Marsay, need to find a miners’ union willing to accept the solidarity and support of a group still considered by the majority of Britons to be ‘perverts’. A chance phone call lands them the group they need and after a meeting with union rep Dai, Paddy Considine, the group travels to the sleepy Welsh mining village of Onllwyn to show support in person and attempt to galvanise and make real Mark’s view that civil rights movements need not be mutually exclusive, gays can support miners rights and vice versa.
The events that spin out of this unlikely match are remarkable, from one gay pride march to the next, 1984 to 1985, the cast of characters undergo transformations that mirror the progress and regress of their respective movements and the change that occurs in the little town of Onllwyn is the raindrop that sends ripples out across the country, contributing to some groundbreaking and progressive reforms in the gay rights movement.
Pride is a film in which you will find no cardboard cutouts for characters, even the small bit-part players appear fleshed out and real and on top of the brilliant portrayal of gay men and women for who they are, just people, the filmmakers also score points for their fantastic treatment of the female characters that inhabit the village of Onllwyn. Tough, funny, intelligent and engaged, the females shine through as the brains behind the men’s brawn on the picket lines of the miners’ strike.
The entire cast of Pride provide performances that are heartwarming. In the hands of lesser actors and craftspeople the film might have come across as overly mawkish but director Matthew Warchus balances on the line between pathos and bathos expertly, delivering a film that is full of heart while avoiding slipping into the syrup.
The 80’s soundtrack is full of killer tracks from The Smiths and Joy Division to The Culture Club and Wham! but it is the stirring hymn of “Solidarity Forever” that is the film’s anthem. From the opening chords to the film’s denouement “Solidarity Forever” is ever present and always appropriate as a slogan for the brave men and women who fought for their rights in a dark time for many in the UK.
It is a shame that the Australian media is so obsessed with giving films like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 so much coverage, massive blockbusters that have no need of publicity get all of the press and little gems like Pride get virtually none, meaning films like Pride will largely go unseen by Australian moviegoers. But that is what small sites like Novastreamovie can do to help fill the void of publicity surrounding this well-crafted tale about two of the biggest rights movements in the UK coming together to form a bond that is stirring and inspiring. Pride is a great film that should not be missed.
The film, which contains very little course language and violence and a couple of sex scenes not even worth mentioning, was given an R rating in the United States by the Motion Pictures Association of America, it gets an M here in Australia. This is not the first time films with gay content undeserving of the harsh classification have been lumped into the R category by the MPAA and it is indicative of the prejudice and idiocy that continues to abide in America and across the globe, in spite of movements like those seen in the film.
Review by Liam Kinkead