On the Silver Screen – Pride
Matthew Warchus’ Pride is based on the true story of a group of LGBT activists who set out to raise money and support the families of those affected by the 1984 UK Miners’ strike.
The focus of a story is an interesting one because it focuses on both the mining town and their LGBT supporters equally. As a result the story manages to be both entirely non judgmental and to not preach to the audience. Both groups of people are presented as being realistic in that everyone has the same doubts about whether this is a good idea; both groups have to overcome their prejudices and stereotypical assumptions in order to function together in furthering their respective causes. It all works because these assumptions are such a part of pop culture even today that they are easy to relate to with little to no explanation. The LGBT community has a reputation for being flamboyant -a trait that the film directly addresses on multiple occasions- and the miners have a reputation for being intolerant and in some cases violent towards LGBT people. The reality -as you might expect- is somewhere in-between and it’s important for both sides to learn that about each other. Much of the film is devoted to the two groups mixing together and forging a bond.
In terms of portrayal there is a vast mix of people from both communities. From the LGBT community there’s the politically active natural leader of the group in the form of the young and idealistic Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), the partially closeted Joe/Bromley (George MacKay), the socially bitter yet hopeful older member of the group Jonathan (Dominic West) and a vast array of other disparate people who are brought together by their sexual orientation and their treatment by those in charge. Among the mining community there is an equal variety of people including Dai (Paddy Considine) who is the tolerant voice of his community, Cliff (Bill Nighy) a man who is proud of his community and the work they do which makes him noticeably upset at the treatment by then prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Imelda Staunton’s Hefina who just has fun learning about this new world she’s never been exposed to before and as above, too many characters to discuss at length. Rest assured is that there are a lot of them and they all feel distinctive and fully realised.
Given the subject matter you might be forgiven for assuming that this is a hard hitting British drama instead of the upbeat comedy that it actually is. The film succeeds in being frequently hilarious with a talented cast using perfect comic timing to deliver memorably fantastic lines. Lots of comedy is mined -no pun intended- from the awkward initial gatherings creating a divide between the two groups out of fear more than anything. The excuses that are given for not mixing are priceless and there are even more jokes breaking down the assumptions made between the two groups. Comedy never gets in the way of the gravity of the issues, instead complimenting them. Making the audience laugh at how silly all these preconceptions are helps to drive home how ridiculous it is to hold these things against people.
Lots of issues are covered in the film from parents not accepting their gay son, AIDS, prejudice as well as worker and human rights in general. The larger issue of the wider strike action from the miners takes something of a back seat because of the focus on a single town and the LGBT group who have decided to help them so the politics and national situation are mostly tangentially alluded to but the effect on this particular town is very clear. It’s a testament to the strength of Stephen Beresford’s script as well as the cast that the film can jump from laugh out loud hilarious to sombre and touching in a matter of seconds. A wide range of emotions are covered by all the characters but in general the film sticks to an upbeat tone and has a lot of fun with the two groups coming together. There is an undercurrent of optimism that runs through it giving the message to the audience that certain types of activism can make a real difference in the world as historically demonstrated by the events in this film.
The large cast of characters can at times seem fairly daunting with lots of people and subplots to keep track of but it doesn’t really bring the film down too much. Each character is given plenty to do and none of them really feel one note. Nobody seems out of place or less capable than their costars and the character interaction feels completely natural.
Pride is a superbly put together British comedy that manages to be touching at the right moments. A talented cast and smart script help to make this a story worth caring about and presents the issues in a realistic and non biased light. The characters are kept at the center of the story with each of them feeling fleshed out and real. I can see this film going down as a British classic