Pride – Film Review

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Think of all the films you’ve ever seen that heavily feature gay men. What they do revolve around? Whether it be sex and the diseases that can come with it, drugs and the dangers they bring, or just pure hedonism with a mixture of both, the tropes are pretty much the same.

Sure, there are deeply passionate love stories, but if asked to think of any LGBT+ film that doesn’t focus on the primary characters’ romantic entanglements, you’d be hard pressed to think of one. Until now.

Pride tells the little-known true life story of a group of LGBT+ people who muster support for the striking miners in the eighties. While it may seem like a very unlikely and altogether unexciting prospect, you’d be dead wrong.

From the offset, we’re introduced to Mark, played by Ben Schnetzer. Charismatic, bouncing (literally) with energy and instantly likable, as well as naturally gorgeous, we follow him on his way to march with his friends in one of the early gay pride marches in London. His journey there is mirrored by Joe (AKA ‘Bromley’), played by George Mackay, which makes you instantly assume that the two are going to fall in love over the course of the film. How refreshing is it then, that they do not and simply remain friends. Not only that, but rather than be about LGBT+ issues, the film is firmly focused on telling a story of solidarity and mutual support in the face of a larger common enemy.

It’s here, on this march in 1984, that Mark persuades his friends to go along with his idea to form the LGSM: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. With a group so tightly knit and focused on their goal that they resemble the keen activists of 2008’s Milk, LGSM try and try again to find someone who will accept their olive branch. How fortuitous, then, that when a confused Welsh woman picks up the phone, a bond between a small ‘gaggle of gays’ is forged with a small Welsh mining village.

The film never feels too fast paced and you just don’t want it to end – you fall in love with these characters that much. So when LGSM travel to the village they’ve raised money for, naturally we worry for them. Although we have only spent a short time with the group at this point, the feelings that writer Stephen Beresford has invoked in the audience are ludicrously strong. We worry for them, assuming at best it could be a barrage of verbal abuse.

However, as the two groups come together and observe one another in a very Mean Girls cafeteria way, they start to have fun and, after a truly fierce dance number from Dominic West who plays Jonathan, they learn to take delight in their mutual plight.

It’s this symmetrical circumstances that, while on the surface unseeable, creates a compelling link between the two worlds. Both groups are fighting their government, both groups feel alienated and ostracised from the rest of the world, and both groups need support – and there’s the heart of the film: support.

If there was one thing that an audience member should take from this film, it’s the feeling of cooperation and shared experience. While apprehensive at first, the communities integrate and support one another. So much so, that it spurs Bill Nighy’s Welsh character, Cliff, to come out of the closet. He doesn’t make a big fuss of it, he merely tells Imelda Staunton – who portrays his friend Hefina – that he’s gay, whilst they prepare sandwiches for the strikers. Of course, being the irrepressible Staunton, she wryly replies that she has always known, but has always been there for support when he needed it.

As for sly little comic moments, there are plenty of them. Whether it’s from characters and their relationships, or to go so far as to have a socially aware drag queen called Martha Scargill, the film has dozens of them. The cinema was a roar with laughter at every turn. However, what Beresford has cleverly done is interspersed the film with heart-felt moments – and what could you expect coming from a director who has worked his entire career up until now in the theatre? He understands that characters must wear both masks, comedy and tragedy, whether on screen or stage.

From the cutest first kiss, to shocking revelations and clear-cut social commentary, this film has it all, with the most touching moment being the final twist.

When coming away, one realises that the fact that these characters liking the same sex never actually came into play. Not once did it matter. Yes, there were ups and downs, fights and hugs, but in the narrative of the film, there sexuality brought them together – but it never defined them. And that, that’s just wonderful.

Check out our interview with the creators of Pride.

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