Film / Reviews

'Pride' is a brilliant film that comes before the fall of U.K. mining

by Kaori Shoji

Special To The Japan Times

The lesbian and gay communities have come a long, long way in both real life and cinema, and “Pride” is evidence of that. The film is set in 1984-85 England, when miners across the country went on strike to protest the government’s closing of a large number of mines and the loss of more than 20,000 jobs. Imagine the miners’ surprise when, seemingly out of the blue, a London-based gay/lesbian coalition group called the LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) descended upon a tiny mining village in Wales to offer financial and moral support.

Why Wales? The LGSM apparently pointed randomly at a map after other towns had turned them down. When the LGSM pull up to the village headquarters in “Pride,” a querulous old lady welcomes them by saying to a friend, “Your gays are here!”

In reality, the period was a sad and definitive moment for British labor — many economists later cited the strikers’ subsequent defeat as the beginning of the end for the English working class. The individuals in the LGSM were starting to see changes in society that had never been seen before and doors opening where they had been tightly shut. The fear of AIDS was looming on the horizon, but, for now, they could reach out to another maligned group, and dispense some skills in dealing with authoritarian bigotry.

Pride (Parade e Yokoso)
Run Time 121 mins
Language English
Opens April 4

“Pride” is based closely on the real-life events that took place, showing the Welsh miners at first confused and resistant to the LGSM’s help. But the majority were quick to realize they had much in common with the group — they were both fighting for dignity and a place in society, and being threatened by the truncheons of the riot police. Margaret Thatcher went as far as to call (albeit on separate occasions) both struggles a “national disgrace.”

As a line in the movie goes: “To find out you have a friend that you never knew existed, well, that’s the best feeling in the world.”

“Pride” is a winner in every sense of the word, thanks to the restrained but exuberant tone maintained by director Matthew Warchus. Much to his credit, the story never slides into camp.

The LGSM’s level-headed leader, Mark (Ben Schnetzer), is portrayed as politically informed and ever open-minded. A former Northern Ireland activist, Mark has had to fight and struggle every step of the way since coming out (even in London), but adversity hasn’t warped his outlook or dented his kindness. This ultimately works in his favor when making friends with the miners: They know a likable bloke when they see one, whatever his sexual orientation.

The entire cast is made of the cream of British actors, from Paddy Considine, Bill Nighy, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton to relative unknowns such as Abram Rooney and Andrew Scott. They all recreate the mood of the period with relish, even if many of them were born too late to experience it first-hand.

“Pride” is heavy on the sociopolitical issues but skims over relationships. You’d think a vehicle like this would plop a love story or two right onto the middle of the table, but Warchus and the cast take a staunch Ken Loach-style approach. “Pride” concentrates on solidarity and the fight for social integrity and keeps the flame burning right until the end. It does what British cinema does best: depict the working class with a deep understanding and genuine respect.

Mining in England was destined to end, and by the time of the strikes the U.K. was already importing much of its coal from China and Russia. “Without the pits, the villages would die,” says a union officer in the film, but in actuality many of the communities rallied and survived, if only barely. It’s worth noting that the following year, the miners showed up in London on the day of the Pride parade to show their support and demonstrate that, though the score is already on the board, one good turn deserves another.