The Power of Friendship and Solidarity
In 1984, a small group of gay and lesbian activists in London decided to raise money in support of striking miners in South Wales. Why? Because they believed Thatcher’s government, the police, and the tabloids were treating the miners in the same hateful way they treated gays and lesbians. But when this group, calling itself Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), shows up in the small Welsh village to show its support, the miners are anything but impressed, at least at first.
Not only is the acting superb across the board but, writer Beresford has magically found time to develop at least a dozen characters, giving one after another their own personal moment to shine.
Pride, directed by Matthew Warchus (who specializes in West End musicals), brings together a fabulous ensemble cast to recreate this inspiring story about the power of friendship and solidarity. Along the way, we see all the varied ways people in the UK responded to gays and lesbians at a time when AIDS was still in the headlines.
Pride was written by newcomer Stephen Beresford. He could have told this true story in many different ways, but he chose to take a warm and lighthearted approach to a very serious set of events. The result is a film full of energy that, while focusing always on the “drama,” is often very funny and has one moving scene after another. Not everything works out, with a failure for almost every breakthrough, but the film’s two key messages come through loud and clear: 1) It only takes one courageous person to create change, though 2) groups standing together in solidarity can produce major lasting changes much more easily. Here in Winnipeg, I am reminded of settler allies standing in solidarity with indigenous peoples in the Idle No More movement.
The heart of Pride’s success is the ensemble cast, led by Dominic West, Billy Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine, George MacKay, and Andrew Scott. Most of these actors are men, but the film highlights the efforts of a number of strong women who play a central role in the story’s outcome.
Not only is the acting superb across the board but, Beresford has magically found time to develop at least a dozen characters, giving one after another their own personal moment to shine. It’s an amazing feat and it allows empathy to become the film’s central theme. The one possible exception to this was the handling of a widow in the Welsh village who becomes LGSM’s greatest “enemy.”
Filmed in London and the Welsh village of Onllwyn (the actual village in question), Pride features great cinematography. It also has a wonderful score, with music playing a key role in the interaction between gays and miners.
I did wish that Pride had done a better job of laying out the historical and political context of the story. We get some sense of what gays and lesbians were facing in 1984–85, but while we see the sacrifices being made by the miners in their struggle against the government, we get no real sense of why the miners are striking. Ultimately, the plight of the miners has not been a happy story, while the plight of gays and lesbians has eased considerably since 1984.
I have written before that we can never have enough humanizing films that inspire us to help make the world a better place. Pride is such a film and is not to be missed.
Pride is rated R for language and brief sexual content, but I’m not sure it deserves this rating.