Pride (2014)

2016 #131
Matthew Marchus | 115 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | UK & France / English | 15 / R

PrideI don’t know if the true story behind Pride was big news back when it all actually happened in 1984, but I hadn’t heard of it until the film came along. For those who’ve still missed it, it’s about a group of gay activists deciding to form a group, LGSM, to support the striking Welsh miners — two groups who were poorly treated in one way or another by ’80s Britain.

That sets up the obvious potential for culture-clash comedy — “what will those parochial little Welsh villagers make of The Gays? Hilarity ensues!” Fortunately Pride doesn’t indulge in these easy targets for too long, preferring instead to show how the two groups embraced each other’s support. There is amusement value in the meeting of such different social groups, but it’s handled in a relatively realistic way. The film also doesn’t ignore the prejudice that obviously arose in some quarters, and on both sides (there were some in the gay community who thought there were more important fights to fight), but the overall theme is of acceptance and cooperation.

The whole thing is eased along considerably by a top-drawer cast of mostly-British thesps. That “mostly” is essential thanks to American Ben Schnetzer as LGSM founder Mark Ashton, who sports a flawless (to my ear) Irish accent as he confidently swaggers through life, which masks inner uncertainty that comes to the fore in later developments. Joe Gilgun is his bespectacled and practically-minded ‘sidekick’, a complete 180 from his recent kerazy turn in Preacher. Perhaps most remarkable is Dominic West as a veteran homosexual, Welsh girls just wanna have funwhose dancing display has to be seen to be believed. Bill Nighy and Paddy Considine are understated as quiet, hesitant characters who have inner steel, and Jessica Gunning makes a similar impact as a housewife who is completely emboldened by the activism.

I don’t like just listing actors, but it would be a disservice not to mention Faye Marsay, Andrew Scott, Imelda Staunton… I could go on. Screenwriter Stephen Beresford finds meaningful stories and character arcs for each of these, while director Matthew Warchus controls the story so that it never devolves into a collection of subplots. I haven’t even mentioned the ostensible main character: George MacKay as a young man taking his first tentative steps into the gay world, an audience cipher character who still gets quality moments sometimes denied to a character fulfilling that plot function.

For what could have been a superficial Brit-com, Pride instead delivers a more truthful and thought-provoking movie, but one that isn’t heavy-handed or worthy, instead remaining amusing, emotionally affecting, and enjoyable. It takes a true story that I guess has become something of a footnote and suggests why it’s the ‘little’ stories that are sometimes the most important.

4 out of 5

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