I saw Pride a few weeks back, but because of my own ineptitude I’ve only just gotten around to writing about it. I’m really sorry about that, because it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen and deserved better.
Let’s go back to 1984 and meet our protagonists: In one corner, a Welsh mining community devastated by pit closures and the long-running strike. In the other, a small group of gay activists struggling to cope with (sometimes violent) homophobia.
The leader of the latter group, Mark Ashton, identifies a common cause: both gay people and the miners are being attacked by the government, the tabloid press and the police – so why not help each other out? They form LGSM – Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners – and start rattling buckets.
This doesn’t sound like the setup for what has been described as the “Feel Good Movie Of The Year”, but it’s all based on a true story – one which has not received much attention. Jonathan Harvey’s 2010 play Canary, which I saw at the Liverpool Playhouse, includes a scene about it, and it came as news to me that such an alliance existed.
What follows is some riotous culture clash comedy, first as LGSM arrive in the miner’s village and clash with the gruff, traditional locals, then later as the union leader travels to London and addresses a rowdy crowd in a gay bar.
I won’t give away any more – suffice to say it’s an incredible film, with some great performances from pretty much every British actor you’d care to name: Freddie Fox, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine, and probably some I’ve missed. It’s an American actor who is the real standout: Ben Schenetzer as Mark Ashton is a standout, with a fiery, passionate performance.
It’s fascinating to watch this piece of history and see how far we’ve come in terms of gay acceptance and equality. However, in another sense we are going backward, as the dignity of workers is compromised and their rights are eroded. Watching David Cameron and his chums once again treating “union” as a dirty word while greedy bankers get away with all sorts, it’s easy to feel like we’re back in the throes of the 80s again. We’re in a world of zero hours contracts, a £500 “fee” to launch employment claims and threats to curb the right to strike. Thatcher may be gone, but her legacy lives on – unions are still “the enemy within” as far as our ruling class is concerned.
The ending is a true roller coaster of emotions, both happy and sad, but ultimately inspiring. It’s the first time ever that I’ve heard a cinema audience break out in spontaneous applause at the end of a film. I sat through the credits – not because I wanted to find out who provided the rostrum camera, but because I needed a few minutes to compose myself. It’s rare for a film to make me cry – we’re talking full tears down cheeks mode here – but this managed it.
It’s an amazing film – if you haven’t seen it, don’t wait for the DVD – try to track down a cinema that is still screening it. Gay, straight or bi – you’ll all love it. In fact, the only people who won’t approve are Tories.