In the winter of 1972, British coalminers went on strike to protest low pay. The British public was solidly behind the miners, and the resulting rolling power cuts – even in the dead of winter – were endured with typical British good spirit. In many cities, people spent evenings traveling from pub to pub, hanging out in those areas of the city that had power, or sociably drinking by candlelight. The strike lasted 7 weeks, and ended when miners agreed to a negotiated settlement.
In the summer of 1984, again the National Union of Mineworkers went on strike, but this time the issue was the decision of the Conservative government, led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to close 20 pits, which would lead to the loss of 20,000 jobs and the economic devastation of dozens of small mining towns. This time the British public was not sympathetic with the miners, and the government brought in police and army units to violently put down protests. This time the strike/lock-out lasted almost a year, and ended when the miners capitulated. The Thatcher government eventually closed a total of 28 pits. ‘Pride’ is drawn from the historical facts of an unusual episode of the strike, and features characters drawn from that history.
In a quirky twist of fate a group of gays, lesbians and “those who have yet to make up their minds” come together to raise money to support the miners. Politically astute Mark (Schnetzer) convinces his friends that miners and gays share common enemies; the police and the straights. So they collect a few hundred pounds to give to some mining community that could use help with groceries and basic expenses. There’s only one problem: the miners don’t want support from a batch of queers and odd characters. Finally Mark’s Welsh friend, Gethen (Scott), grabs a map and identifies the poorest towns in South Wales. After a series of phone calls, the group (LGSM – Lesbians and Gays Supporting the Miners) finally comes up with a town that agrees to accept the help, and a small representative group travels in a van to deliver the funds. When they arrive the culture clash is predictable, but fortunately this charming film avoids making it all seem ridiculous!
The story is told through the eyes and camera lens of Joe (MacKay), the young college-kid who is discovering his sexuality while hiding out from his parents. Among the ‘straights,’ Imelda Staunton plays Hefina, who convinces her friends that it would be down-right rude and intolerant to refuse a visit from the crowd from London. And, in a brilliant turn as an older gay, alcohol-soaked ex-cabaret artist, Dominic West (best known to U.S. audiences from his work on the tv series, The Wire) plays Jonathan, a flamboyant charmer. In a scene reminiscent of the dance sequence in Kinky Boots, Jonathan slinks and jitterbugs and vamps the entire female population of the Welsh town, prompting the reticent miners to ask for dance lessons. In a particularly lovely performance, Bill Nighy plays Cliff, a gentle miner/poet who greets the gay invasion of his town with grace and courtesy. His ‘reveal’ late in the film is surprising, but only to him.
There are the usual suspects and predictable turns in the plot; the nasty homophobic widow who alerts the media about the visiting “perverts,” the lesbians who complain that they are under-represented in the group, and an assortment of eccentrics and small-town, well-meaning straights. There’s a delightful scene in a gay nightclub, when everyone – gay, straight, and trans – gets his or her groove on. Minds open up, consciousness is raised, acceptance is gained, and the specter of AIDS (which defined sexual politics in the 80’s) is barely mentioned.
The final scene milks all the generosity and good spirit of the 1985 Gay Pride Parade, when busloads of miners show up to march in solidarity with the LGSM. While some of the cinematic elements will remind the viewer of other quirky, indie British films (think The Full Monty, Kinky Boots, or Billy Elliot), Pride serves up an extra portion of heart, humor, and gentle grace.
Director: Matthew Warchus
Writer: Stephen Beresford
With: Andrew Scott, Bill Nighy, George MacKay, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Ben Schnetzer, Joe Gilgun, Paddy Considine, Faye Maysay, Jessie Cave, Sophie Evans, Monica Dolan, Clare Lawrence Moody, Menna Trussler, Adrian Palmer.
Produced by BBC Films