Despite its contentious and still controversial (sigh) subject matter, there’s a winning cosiness to “Pride” that makes sure the themes of human kindness and solidarity don’t get swamped by the angry and inflammatory historical backdrop. That’s not to say this comedy drama doesn’t have teeth, just that care is taken to ensure the film’s bark is worse than its bite.
Based on a true story, “Pride” tells of a group of London based Lesbian and Gay activists who, at the behest of Mike Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) started raising money in support of the 1984 miner’s strike. When the National Union of Mineworkers declines to accept their funds, the group decides to take their donations directly to a village in Wales which has been badly affected by the strike. There, the activists form an unlikely alliance with the locals and challenging their perceptions.
On its journey to the screen, there have been a number of minor adjustments to the real story to retain its appeal and focus as a story about people. Less about the legitimacy of the miner’s strike and more about the nascent crusade for LGBT rights, it glosses over some of the less savoury aspects of Scargill’s NUM (including why they actually chose a village in Wales) and softens the rougher edges of some of the main characters. The politics of the miner’s strike are relegated very much to a backdrop and apart from a few subtle hints here and there, there’s no mention Mark’s passionate communist beliefs.
Striking the same playful tone as “The Full Monty” and “Billy Elliot”, there’s still room for plenty of heartfelt drama as the group encounter the prejudices of the rural mining community, whose desperation for funds and support goes hand in hand with their discomfort, illuminating the prejudice and social stigmas which existed in 1980s Britain. The cast are superb, with a roster of British (but surprisingly little Welsh) talent rising to the occasion and giving the real life characters an authenticity that allows them to be both funny and moving. The great Bill Nighy steals almost every scene he’s in, and a running gag about lesbians and vegetarianism provides a steady stream of light-heartedness, cutting through the distaste of some of the attitudes on display, notably in the auburn-bobbed ‘villain’ of the piece, Maureen (a thankless role played with thin-lipped bigotry by Lisa Palfry). George Mackay does a great job of pulling the threads of the story together as fictional character Joe ‘Bromley’ Cooper whose journey of self-discovery takes place alongside the main story.
Heart-warming, life affirming and illuminating, “Pride” takes us back to a time when people were brought up to date on current events by people reading aloud from a newspaper and shows the commonalities that bind humanity regardless of the divisions and differences we may have.