Pride Hits the Big Screen
Based on a true story, this empowering film about the importance of solidarity lives up to its name
By Hans Pedersen - Oct. 3, 2014
Directed by Matthew Warchus, this inspirational gem tells the story of how members of the British LGBT community forged a powerful alliance a couple decades ago.
Set in 1984 during the National Union of Mineworkers strike, the opening scenes focus on Joe (George MacKay), a 20-year-old who’s thrust into the middle of his first gay pride parade.
Among the pride marchers is Mark (Ben Schnetzer), a cute activist with a ’50s retro look who hatches a plan: He suggests they form an alliance and raise money for the striking coal miners – a group that seems to hate Margaret Thatcher as much as the gays do.
The small but dedicated group of activists bypasses the union and reach out directly to the council of a small Welsh mining town to find coal miners who will accept the money.
The miner who comes to collect the money is touched, and speaks to a crowd at a local gay pub after a couple hundred pounds are raised, telling them what a good feeling it is “to find out you had a friend you never knew existed…”
He and a couple of women find solidarity with the LGBT crowd (adorably dubbing themselves LGSM for Lesbians & Gays Support Miners). Everyone seems to recognize that police brutality against miners is not that different from cops who brutalize gays.
One of the activists, a lesbian punk rocker (Faye Marsay, who steals several scenes), gets a couple other women involved to start addressing women’s issues, and there’s talk of a splinter group. Rifts between gays and lesbians in the movement is just one of the details helping illustrate an authentic picture.
Also lending authenticity is the sheer variety of characters who identify as gay, lesbian or trans in this story. It’s a treat to have a wider look at the huge spectrum of colors in the rainbow.
When all the sweet-faced activists get invited to the miners’ hall, the colorful LGSM group stands out among the straight-laced crowd clad in earth tones. While there are prejudices to overcome, soon enough, the miners get to ask the questions they’ve always had: Are all lesbians vegetarians? When two men live together who does the housework?
The laughs stemming from this culture clash start to build quickly in a tale that’s inspiring without becoming maudlin. And it’s Culture Club that helps everyone bond, ultimately tearing up the floor together to “Chameleon.”
It’s also a happy romp through the fashions and styles of the ’80s, evoking the mood of the era to a T, without resorting to music soundtrack clichés (such as choosing only songs from that decade). The activists’ hope and dream is that Bronski Beat will swoop in and save the day by performing at a massive benefit concert.
But fear of AIDS heightens the tensions as well, stoking the fire of bigotry.
While the story is a string of flashbacks for many Brits, those of us stateside are likely to find this chronicle of ’80s labor history insightful.
Touching and funny subplots are delicately woven into the story too. One of the activists is a Chippendales-style dancer (Dominic West) and starts teaching a miner how to dance to woo women.
And during a night on the town, several of the townspeople make their way inside a men-only club, and what follows is a hilarious brief exchange between a rubber fetishist and one of the senior ladies.
In the end, homophobes have surprisingly few friends and the power of pride is affirmed powerfully.
Serving as the spine of the film are great performances across the board, especially from seasoned pros such as Bill Nighy (Love Actually) and Imelda Staunton (Maleficent).
Ultimately, it’s an empowering story about the importance of solidarity, conveyed in an authentic and heartfelt way. One is hard-pressed to find a flaw in the film, and could argue it follows a formula in the same tradition as The Full Monty or Saving Grace. But that’s also another way of saying it’s a kick-ass movie, since it works.
This gem churns out enough laughs in the final act to buoy your spirits until the next weepy moment. It’s highly unlikely you’ll leaver the theatre disappointed.
Hans Pedersen is a freelance writer based in Phoenix.