Monday, 15 September 2014

At university, I went to a couple of the LGBT society’s film and pizza nights. The problem with them was, the majority of LGBT-themed films are either unrelentingly bleak, and so unsuitable for friendly gatherings that are meant to make people want to come back to the society, or just immensely crap. If I was still in that society, I’d now undoubtedly suggest Pride. And not just because it has Moriarty and Jimmy McNulty as a couple.

From director Matthew Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford, Pride tells a remarkable true story; in the middle of the miners’ strike of 1984, a group of gay pride campaigners decide to show solidarity with the strikers, seeing parallels with themselves in the way the miners are oppressed by the Thatcher government. They set up LGSM – Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners – and raise funds to pass on to the community of a small Welsh mining village. Of course, not everyone in this village is comfortable with their new benefactors, and there’s a lot of struggle to get themselves appreciated. But the success which grew out of this small group of activists is amazing, and by the end of the film, you’ll be astonished at just what an effect they had, nationwide, and curious as to how you hadn’t already heard their story. 

The film tells this story through a multitude of characters, and does an excellent job of balancing them all, their personal stories carefully woven around the political plot. The lead is George Mackay’s Joe, who, over the course of the narrative, finds his feet in the gay scene, learns to take pride in who he is, and stands up to his unaccepting family. While very touching, the coming out story is one we’ve seen before, and so it’s the depth of the other characters around Joe that make Pride something special. Andrew Scott plays Gethin, whose story is a nice counterpoint to Joe’s – though he initially wants to stay away from his Welsh roots, the group's journey provokes him to make up with the mother who spurned him sixteen years ago. Meanwhile, Ben Schnetzer's Mark deals simultaneously with the pressure put upon him by his responsibility as leader of the activists and the possibility he’s HIV-positive. The villagers are well-developed characters too, particularly Imelda Staunton as the bulldozer-like matriarch who stands up to anyone in the community's way, and Bill Nighy as the shy, reserved treasurer.

That’s a lot of characters, and in fact there are a lot more that I haven’t mentioned, but Pride somehow succeeds in making them all rounded and believable, even the less sympathetic ones, and I had a great time in their company. It’s a story set against a very sad backdrop – the oppression of the miners, rampant homophobia, AIDs, hate crime – and, while it could show more of their consequences, it certainly doesn’t shy away from these issues. And it’s this sadness that makes the victories all the more happier. Aided by a great soundtrack featuring The Smiths and The Stone Roses, it’s an incredible story about an incredible group of people, presented in a tone which isn't overly sentimental, but invokes joy, wonder, and, of course, pride. One for LGBT societies across the land, and indeed for anyone who needs their spirits lifting. 


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