• Post category:Movies
  • Post last modified:January 28, 2022

Pride: Stronger Together

Photo: CBS Films

In January 2015, it was reported that the American DVD release of the British hit Pride lacked any references to its gay content. The most stunning example was that someone had actually erased a banner with the words ”lesbian” and ”gay” written on it from the cover of the DVD. The rest of the image is intact, all that’s missing is the banner in the background.

One has to wonder how many American homophobes fell for it and were dismayed to learn that this film promoted a human rights agenda, when all they wanted to see was a movie about a British miners strike in the 1980s… But, if you remove the one thing that audiences might find a tad titillating, this movie has little marketing value.

Defying Thatcher
In March 1984, thousands of British coal miners went on strike, defying Margaret Thatcher’s government. A few months into the conflict, Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), a young gay activist in London, has a brilliant idea. Why not form a support group of gays and lesbians and raise money to support the striking miners? After all, they face the same enemy and would be stronger together. Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) is formed, but Mark and his allies face resistance. Initially, from other gay activists who know perfectly well that the miners have the aggressive anti-gay prejudice that most people were raised on at the time. Still, the LGSM leaders meet with David Donovan (Paddy Considine), a union representative, who is cautiously optimistic. The group decide to bravely go where few openly gay men have gone before, the Welsh mining village Onllwyn.

Based on real events
The story was based on real events. Some of the characters are fictional, others based on real-life people. The latter category includes Ashton and Imelda Staunton’s character, Hefina Headon, who died during the making of the film and was known throughout Wales as a notable human-rights activist. The former category includes a 16-year-old, very well played by George MacKay, who is torn between his devotion to the cause and his mother who tries to make him believe that he’s going to spend his life alone if he insists on being gay.

Director Matthew Warchus is usually a greater presence in theater (his only other movie is Simpatico (1999)), but this is a very cinematic, irresistible experience that’s bursting with life. Pretty amazing that it is as good as it is, because Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford choose a British tradition that always runs the risk of being too predictable and manipulative. The formula was firmly established by movies like The Commitments (1991) and The Full Monty (1997), where a motley group of youngsters embark on a project that challenges rural conservatism, but handle this collision between the old-time values of the miners and the free-spirited gay activists in a way that is funny, touching and educational. At a time when it often feels like we are increasingly polarized, this film shows how and why bridges can and must be built as long as you can decide on a common enemy.

The cast is very colorful, including The Wire and The Affair star Dominic West as Jonathan Blake, the activist who caught HIV in the ’80s but miraculously never contracted AIDS; Bill Nighy and Staunton are also lovely as two of the senior union activists in Onllwyn.

The strike didn’t end well. The union handled it poorly, lost public support and Thatcher didn’t pay a political price for going after them with every weapon in her arsenal. Still, this film admirably highlights one of the positive consequences of the strike, opening the labor movement’s eyes to its fellow pink supporters.

Pride 2014-Britain-France. 119 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by David Livingstone. Directed by Matthew Warchus. Screenplay: Stephen Beresford. Cast: Ben Schnetzer (Mark Ashton), Joe Gilgun (Mike Jackson), Faye Marsay (Steph Chambers), Paddy Considine, Dominic West, Andrew Scott… George MacKay, Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy.

Last word: “LGSM [Lesbians And Gays Support The Miners] did a great thing for a lot of people. Stephen [Beresford] worked out a way to tell the story. I wanted to be the person who then continued to get it right. In order to help me do that, Stephen sat with me in casting, and I ran by him my choices for music, and he sat next to me every day shooting, at the monitor. Costume fittings too! It was like having a co-director. I do remember some conversations where I said ‘is it possible to do this’, and [he] said ‘actually no, I don’t want that, and I’ll tell you why’! I think it may be a fairly unusual relationship though.” (Warchus, Den of Geek)



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