In the late 90s I remember going to the cinema to watch a film I found very funny and told a heart-warming story set against a backdrop of industrial and social strife – that film was The Full Monty and went on to huge international success.
Well now, following in its footsteps comes a film that combines many of the same elements with a streak of what certainly feels like more truth and honesty, Matthew Warchus’ Pride.
Set in the mid-1980s around the backdrop of ‘Thatcher’s Britain’, where social and industrial strife was rife, Pride starts out following Joe, aka Bromley (George MacKay), a young gay man coming to terms with his sexuality and attending his first pride parade. From there he becomes involved with the formation of a rights and fundraising group called Lesbians And Gays Support The Miners, a group from London raising money for the striking miners of South Wales with whom they see themselves sharing a common enemy and many common problems.
From there the movie looks at the attitudes the miners had to one of their most successful fundraising associations and takes a look into the turbulent world of gay life in the mid-80s and the lives of the striking miners, all in the form of a largely upbeat comedy-drama.
What sets this apart from many other similar movies is two things. First is the script that, despite having some totally fictional characters (Joe included) and clearly fictionalised situations, does a great job of getting to the heart and a sense of honesty about the situations portrayed.
Across the 120 minutes run time it doesn’t shy away from any of the issues surrounding any of the characters, so we see the violence and abuse directed at the gay characters and we hear about AIDS and see some of its responses and ramifications, while at the same time we see the situation the striking miners were in, portrayed more clearly than in any documentary I have seen, literally starving and freezing in their villages in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
While this might sound all a bit serious Pride tackles all these issues with a remarkable good humour that is never disrespectful but does lead to some of the funniest human moments I’ve seen in a cinema in a long time and sums up, it seems to me, something of the attitude of the people involved.
This also sets off the more tragic moments brilliantly and there is one moment at the film’s conclusion that really hits home hard, despite the path being well signposted.
The second aspect that made the movie was the performances. Packed to the gills with well-known British ‘character actors’, people who you know you’ve seen on-screen a hundred times before and brand new faces everyone seems to be on top form. Bill Nighy is in fabulously understated mode as one of the elders of the Welsh village, Imelda Staunton in a similar position but in more boisterous form, the aforementioned MacKay astonishing as our guide into the story and Dominic West as one of the most real characters in the whole thing, Jonathan Blake.
West is entirely believable in the role, despite being a familiar face, and draws a range of emotions from the audience with seeming ease. A particular high point of this being an excellent dance routine that is counter pointed by some later, more introspective moments that I can only assume reflect the real Blake’s life and situation.
With awards already piling up it seems Pride is destined to be a critical success and, if there is any justice, it will be a commercial one too, though I have a feeling the issues it tackles might not be too palatable to some, particularly in the more conservative parts of America.
I don’t remember both laughing and crying at the same time so much in a movie in a long time if ever, and all without feeling over emotionally manipulated like many movies are wont to do, which sets Pride as a high watermark in its genre and possibly broader cinema in general.