Starring: Bill Nighy, Dominic West, Paddy Considine
Genre: Drama/ Comedy
In London in 1984 gay activist Mark (Ben Schnetzer) sees coverage of the oppression of Britain’s miners by the Thatcher Government and feels that, though both groups in society are very different, they are both facing equal oppression. He decides to raise money for the miners, and with the help of his fellow activists they form a group known as LGSM (lesbians and gays support the miners). However the National Union of Miners want nothing to do with them due to the effect of potential negative publicity, they however decide to contact a mining village directly, and thanks partly to a communication mix up travel to and support the striking miners from the Welsh village of Onllwyn. In what is at first a very uneasy alliance with a vast majority of the unwelcoming villagers, the two groups from an eventual bond.
Though perhaps treading familiar working class themes, stories, character arcs and settings to other British films (Brassed Off, The Full Monty and Billy Elliot have been consistent comparisons), Pride takes these familiar notions and somehow manages to transform them into an invigorating and truly engaging film that is surely set to be 2014’s most genuinely uplifting films.
Some have argued that Pride is just simplistic and patronising anti-Thatcher cinema, well anyone thinking that it is narrow-minded or didn’t watch the film with any attention paid to it as there so much more to Pride than that. Both groups may have a common enemy in Margaret Thatcher, but that is used as a platform to tell a great story of human compassion, spirit and triumph in the face of adversity. Pride is a film that can be enjoyed by all, no matter what a person’s age or politics are, as it is at its heart is a very human story. Pride is also further proof that when British cinema produces a good heart warming crowd pleaser, it tends to produce a very good one!
Director Mathew Warchus and screenwriter Stephen Beresford also demonstrate management of a balancing act with skilful conviction; not just the careful balance between grit, comedy and sentiment, but also a plethora of subplots featuring the huge cast list of familiar faces and slightly lesser known faces.
The film opens with 20 year old Joe (George MacKay) joining in his first gay pride march and it is through this fictional character (one of the very few) that we get to know the eclectic group of activists. As a 20 year old discovering his sexuality, Joe’s character may be a little clichéd and contrived, but yet these are handled very well and it is compliment to Beresford’s script that most of the characters in the group of activists gets their own chance to shine. Likewise when the story shifts to the setting of the remote Welsh village, many of the villagers have their own subplots. Admittedly not all these subplots get the examination they perhaps deserve, but at 120 minutes Pride never feels bloated as each character plays their key part in the narrative and each scene justifies its inclusion as the film reaches its extremely satisfying conclusion.
The bigger names may be the ones featured on the poster and Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Paddy Considine and Andrew Scott are all excellent and unforgettable in their various roles, however the lesser known names also are given their chance to shine; in particular Ben Schnetzer who is a charismatic and engaging screen presence throughout as the character who drives the narrative. So many of the characters in Pride could have ended up being written or played as lazy caricatures, but the script and performances make every character engaging and truly memorable. Warchus and Beresford never try to overcomplicate things and give us a true story which examines very basic themes, but simplicity can be more effective and all the film’s characters emerge with great sympathy and the story truly engaging and involving.
Of course Pride is a film with its cheesy and clichéd moments, but I always argue that there is nothing wrong with a film having these said moments, what is more important is how the narrative deals with them. Pride is very much grounded in reality, with its depiction of two groups that faced a truly difficult struggle in British society at this time and the struggles they face. The film also keeps us very much grounded in the harsh reality of the time for the gay community as aids was starting to spread and homosexuals were still met with great hatred (and often unprovoked violence) by large parts of the British public. Pride is not afraid to have the occasional moments to remind us of that fact, becoming all the more poignant for it. Likewise the fact the miners were facing starvation during the extremely harsh winter months. It is the film’s instances of staying grounded in reality that makes the more uplifting moments feel far more genuine, and therefore emotionally satisfying, even with the occasionally really sugar coated moment.
Pride itself also feels very cinematic; with beautiful aerial shots of the welsh countryside and the variations in Tat Radcliffe’s cinematography depending on setting capturing perfectly the bleak isolation of the Welsh village in the winter months, but also the variations of colour and energy from many of the London settings. Though its narrative may follow a very familiar structure in places, Pride is such an undeniably uplifting film that will leave a smile on the face of any viewer that watches it.
Not only one of 2014’s most uplifting films, but also one of 2014’s best films; Pride is a film that meticulously balances substance and heart to be a truly engaging and uplifting experience from start to finish.