Director: Matthew Warchus
Cast: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, George Mackay, Ben Schnetzer, Andrew Scott
Watch Pride online in the UK: BBC iPlayer / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / iTunes / Rakuten TV / Google Play / TalkTalk TV
“We’re just off to Swansea for a massive les-off!” declares Imelda Staunton halfway through Pride. It’s a moment you will have seen countless times in clips and trailers, but it sums up exactly what makes the film so special: not just the pleasure of an elderly woman saying “les-off”, but the joy of seeing the people you would least expect join forces.
This most unlikely of unions begins with Joe (Mackay), a not-quite-out teen who finds himself swept up in the rally for gay rights, led by the extremely-out-there Mark (Schnetzer). Meeting in a bookshop in London, their rousing leader hatches a plan: to help the miners in their strikes against the closures. After all, if they both hate Thatcher and are both being persecuted, what else do they need in common?
It’s an idea that the mining community rejects, until the team chance upon the town of Onllwyn, Wales. There, they come across Dai (Paddy Considine), who is only too grateful to accept donations from the LGBT fundraisers. It’s only when they meet in person that he realises he misheard their group name altogether.
An awkward alliance develops, one that’s encouraged by some and – inevitably – condemned by others. Social commentary. Pensioners swearing. A true story. It’s the kind of setup that sounds like the formula for a feel-good British movie, but Matthew Warchus’ direction hits all the right notes without looking like it’s trying. Everything feels real and honest, from the estranged Welshman in the group (a fantastically understated Andrew Scott) right down to the clumsy title of their organisation: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. (Later, a fundraising gig they launch has a much catchier name: Pits and Perverts.)
The ensemble move from scepticism to affection with an infectious sincerity: Staunton’s village secretary and other women giggle over gay porn; Dominic West’s bookshop owner, Jonathan, struts his stuff in a dance sequence worthy of John Travolta; and Bill Nighy raises his eyebrows like it’s going out of fashion. No single cast member steals the show; they all steal it from each other.
That generous spirit is supported by an equally generous script: writer Stephen Beresford trusts the actors to convey the important stuff and trusts the audience to keep up. One cameo from Russell Tovey as a former lover of Mark’s communicates all we need with a glance, which gives the tragic emotions involved even more impact. Ben Schnetzer is superb as the boisterous protestor, an ideal foil to Mackay’s shy newcomer.
Under his leadership, it all comes together in a bittersweet climax that recalls past British triumphs, such as The Full Monty and Brassed Off. If that similarity takes away from the polish or pain of Pride, though, its uniquely inclusive attitude gives it a charm all of its own. At its heart, this is an equal opportunities movie that will appeal to all ages and backgrounds, pits and perverts alike. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re just off to Swansea for a massive les-off.
Pride is available on BBC iPlayer until 30th July 2019.
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