It was one of those so-random-you-can’t-make-it-up moments in history: In 1984, while UK coal miners were striking against Margaret Thatcher’s decision to reduce government subsidies and close down 20 mines, a small group of gay and lesbian activists in London decided to raise funds to help an individual coal mining center in Wales.
Matthew Warchus – 2014
Reviewed by Mark Kines
Pride dramatizes this event, sucking out most of the politics and focusing instead on the Welsh miners’ fleeting homophobia, and then on the individual characters who participated in this unexpected collaboration.
Being an ensemble piece, Pride is more a collection of vignettes than a dramatic narrative. It is anchored by two characters: Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), the real-life activist who was one of the leaders of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, and Joe, a fictional young gay nerd who is brought out of his shell – and his closet – by his new friends. But every actor gets his or her own little scene. Some of those scenes work, and some are just trying too hard. You can’t fault the enviable cast, which includes Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, and Paddy Considine, but the story is spread so thin that many of these people don’t have much to do. (Dominic West, best known as McNulty on The Wire, co-stars as Jonathan Blake, a real-life activist; his main purpose in the film is to dance in a scene and magically make all the bigoted Welsh miners suddenly love the gays. You will be forgiven for rolling your eyes.)
In short, Pride is a mixed bag. There are times when it’s genuinely moving, and times when it begs like a puppy to be loved. It’s hard not to be cynical about the filmmakers’ long-term goals: Like similar feel-good British movies such as The Full Monty, Billy Elliot, Made in Dagenham, and Kinky Boots, this one feels destined to be adapted into a stage musical within the next five years. It’s also hard not to be disturbed by the ending: I’ll signal a spoiler alert, although most people should know by now that Thatcher won and the miners lost. Pride basically shrugs off the miners’ bleak future, since that’s no way to wrap up a crowd-pleaser. In fact, it barely gives any screen time to the strike itself.
On the upside, the film does a superb job at authentically capturing Britain in 1984, hairstyles and all. The soundtrack is a bit too on-the-nose, but it’s still great. And the cast, as mentioned, is terrific, especially Schnetzer, Considine, and Sherlock‘s Andrew Scott as a melancholy gay Welshman.
I will close with this: The audience I was with – mostly elderly Americans – actually applauded at the end of the movie, which almost never happens during a matinee, so that may tell you everything you need to know.
Mark Tapio Kines is a film director, writer, producer and owner of Cassava Films. You can reach Mark here.
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