Pride – Film Review

A poignant and heartwarming reminder of the power of social activism

Set during the coal miner’s strike of 1984, Pride follows the true story of a group of London activists supporting picket line protesters in a remote Welsh mining village in the Dulais valley. The LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) raised money while their outspoken flamboyance raised eyebrows in the Welsh valleys. The film follows the group from their bookshop headquarters in London. Led by Mark Ashton (played by American actor Ben Schnetzer in a swaggering breakthrough performance) the LGSM chose to help the miners because they shared the same trio of enemies: Margaret Thatcher’s government, the police and the tabloids.

While planning the benefit gig ‘Pits and Perverts’ to help the Welsh community, with each visit the LGSM makes to Dulais in their battered Transit van the cultural barriers are broken down. In a story bookended by the Gay Pride marches of ’84 and ’85 the two groups join forces in a show of solidarity against their shared oppression. Feel-good charm combines with a fascinating look at a volatile period of British history when Thatcher ruled with an iron fist and homosexuality was against the law under the age of 21.

Director Matthew Warchus is known for directing the West End show Matilda and handles the balance of emotional drama and raucous laughs brilliantly. The culture clash comedy moments are mined for gags when the ladies of the village visit London and go on a club crawl with their LGSM friends to basement bars and bondage clubs. But the film does strike a serious tone. Warchus has said of the events depicted in Pride: “This historic conflict was yet another landmark of gloom in my formative years: a grim and anxious time of air-raid siren tests for nuclear attacks, IRA bombings, and then of course AIDS.”

Stephen Beresford’s script keeps us engaged with myriad characters, charting the coming of age, and coming out, of photographer Joe (George MacKay, Sunshine on Leith) and his friendship with Steph (Fay Marsay, Fresh Meat). We also see the attitudes of the villagers change as Paddy Considine’s Dai Donovan reaches out to the LGSM and locals played by Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton welcome them with open arms. Bookshop owner Gethin is brought to life by Adam Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock) who provides some of the film’s more soulful moments while familiar faces like This Is England’s Joe Gilgun (playing real life activist Mike Jackson) typify the strength in depth of an inspiring ensemble cast. And look out for The Wire’s Dominic West in a feel good dance scene reminiscent of Billy Elliot.

Though guilty of the odd cheesy moment Pride is an uplifting protest film offering a poignant and heartwarming reminder of a time when social activism meant actually getting involved and not just sharing a link on social media.

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