What it's about:
During the UK's lengthy miners strike in 1984, a group of young gay activists (and one lesbian) take up the cause of those who they perceive as their brothers in arms: the thousands of miners who, with severely dwindling amounts of both resources and morale, continue to hold out against the Thatcher government's steely resolve in a battle for their very livelihoods. The only problem is that the conventionally conservative, often homophobic miners, may be less than appreciative of where their latest support is coming from.
What we thought:
"Gay" in both its homosexual characters and in the sheer joy that it will inevitably instil in the hearts of all but the most cold-hearted (or, at least, Tory-leaning) of us, Pride is "feel good" filmmaking of the highest order. It's quite tough at times, to be sure, as its touchy subject matters obviously occasionally demands, but it also fearlessly wears its sentiment on its sleeves and is both rambunctious and witty in its fully developed sense of humour. It's not a musical (though it has a killer, period-specific soundtrack) but it has that same gleeful, bouncy sense of joy that the best musicals inevitably possess.
It is also, however, unabashedly left-leaning in its politics. It sides quite, well, proudly with the plights of both the LGBT community and, perhaps most pertinently, with the working class miners and general working class Joes (and Jos) who are all too often used and abused by those in positions of wealth and power. It's a film that clearly despises bigotry on the one hand and unfettered capitalism on the other and, by film's end, you will have a pretty clear idea of just how little director Matthew Warchus and screenwriter Stephen Beresford think of Margaret Thatcher (neither of whom are exactly young but neither of whom are exactly veteran filmmakers either) and her ultra-conservative government.
Now, for a largely left-leaning bleeding-heart like yours truly, the film's polemical viewpoints didn't exactly stop me from loving every single moment of it, but the same clearly can't be said for those who don't share Messrs Warchus and Beresford's world view. Right-leaning critics in the UK have hated – and I do mean hated – the film and I know of at least one right-leaning South African film critic who flat-out refused to see it (though I hasten to point out that in both cases, it was the anti-Thatcherian stance that rattled them, not the film's pro-gay rights message) and it has been marketed towards American audiences with the gay aspects very much played down.
More the pity though because though I understand that the film's politics need to be front and centre, they do unfortunately serve to obscure everything that is so great, not to mention so universal, about this smart, witty and big-hearted piece of cinema. I can only hope that those who reside elsewhere on the political spectrum will be able to put their prejudices (however well founded) aside and enjoy the film for what it is: a well-made, clearly personal and endlessly enjoyable work of art/ entertainment.
The filmmaking never draws attention to itself so it never really impresses on that technical level (not that it needs to) and the script is certainly not without its largely nitpicky flaws, but Pride is a genuinely great film with incredibly strong performances from both its cast of veterans (Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Paddy Considine) and promising young actors (too many to mention); perfect pacing and a flawless mix of serious issues and populist entertainment.
And, make no mistake, achieving the latter balance, is a lot harder than it looks.
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