Pride (Warchus, 2014)

Pride is a stirring rendition of little-known true story, set amongst the societal chaos of the 80s miners strikes. The maligned minority, represented by a Welsh mining town, receive a show of support from an unlikely, but similarly maligned, camp of the Gay and Lesbian community. The film shows how Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) rallies around another minority seeking representation, to the eventual public and private benefit of both parties. This is not to say their support is accepted whole-heartedly, with adverse reaction coming from both sides, initially and throughout, as tensions and prejudices run high.

There is much to admire here. Homosexual activism is shown to be considered, politically thoughtful and engaged, and pro-active in response to heavy criticism. In reply to a label of ‘perverts’ in the press, the pressure group adopt the label and wear it proudly, providing a link with ‘Queer’ activism which would explode in the following decade. Pride shows us just how useful utilising those words designed to hurt can be when used as part of one’s defence.

The characters neatly split down the middle, the gay rights activists from cosmopolitan London town, and the more conservative (definitely with a small ‘c’) Welsh citizens of the mining community. The two groups, one largely older and settled, the other primarily youthful and revolutionary, have a consistently interested and funny dynamic. On the Welsh side, Bill Nighy as Cliff is reliably brilliant, delivering an understated yet hilarious performance as part of the town committee – gradually graduating from apprehensive mumble to gleeful acceptance in the visiting presence of the ‘gays’ from London. Amongst the committee’s other members are Imelda Staunton as Hefina and Paddy Considine as Dai, each bringing warmth and humanity to their portrayal of their inspirational real-life counterparts. On the flipside, Dominic West also features in a brave turn as Jonathan, one of the first men to be diagnosed with AIDS in the UK. He remains irreverent, outspoken and fabulous despite this ‘death sentence’. His partner Gethin, played by Andrew Scott, will be recognisable for many as the face of Moriarty in the BBC’s hugely successful Sherlock reinvention. He’s a far cry from supervillain mode here, playing an anomalously quiet member of the activist group, a man for whom Wales is a site of recollecting past strife and exclusion, not an opportunity for positive social generation.

Tough sell: Dai explains the homophobic attitude of the miners

Tough sell: Dai explains the miners’ homophobic attittude

Of course the film benefits from the veracity of its subject, and so it should, raising awareness for this forgotten tale of solidarity against the tyranny of the majority. The film celebrates diversity, showing the LGBT community to be varied and non-conformist, even among its own members; towards the end, Gay and Lesbian for Miners are encouraged to join the ‘fringe’ groups in the huge Gay Pride march in London 1985. This is clearly shown to be a rich, thriving community which refuses to be homogenised.

While director Warchus’ style is admittedly simple, it allows the warmth and humour of Beresford’s script to shine through. Sometimes contentious issues need to be carefully told; and while the humour helps to un-demonise these often misrepresented groups, there can be no chance of equivocation when it comes to the film’s presiding message. The opposition to LGSM is infuriatingly dogmatic, often relying on Conservative (big ‘C’ this time) religious beliefs to support their stolidly non-progressive arguments. It is a decidedly liberal film, which is probably why I am endeared to it. It reminds us of the cultural diversity of Britain, and how this is a strength and not a weakness, instead an opportunity for unlikely alliances and affirmation of one’s own identity in comparison, but not against, those who are different. Pride provides a resounding refutation of Thatcher’s infamous anti-society proclamation, presenting two fringe groups who bind together out of common need and common decency, eventually choosing to ignore differences in lifestyle and generation for the greater good of all; a message worth remembering.

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