Pride (2014) Review – Classic British Social Commentary

pride

Pride was directed by Matthew Warchus (and it is his first film for 15 years as director) based on a screenplay by Stephen Beresford better known as an actor in British TV series.  The film stars Ben Schnetzer and George Mackay although when you look at the posters you’ll see Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton pushed to the front as the big names in the picture.

The film follows the classic British tradition of telling the lesser known side of a well known historical topic.  In this case we revisit the bad tempered miners strikes of 1984/85 that led to a lot of ill will between those men (and their communities) and the Conservative government of the time led by the now deceased Margaret Thatcher.  In this case the story centres on the gay community of London who form the Lesbian & Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) support group to raise money to support a small Welsh community.

The driving force behind the group is Mark (Schnetzer) who is inspired by news coverage on the television.  The film tells the story of the group’s attempts to integrate with the mining community while facing prejudice that threatens to tear the small Welsh village apart.  The film is also a coming of age tale for a young Joe (Mackay) who finds his true identity and a new inner courage through his support for the strike.

The film is not the first British product to use the miners strike as the backdrop to tell a story.  Brassed Off (1996), The Full Monty (1997) and Billy Elliott (2000) are probably the most notable examples.  This incarnation is not the grittiest tale and arguably plays to a wider audience in its upbeat tone but it is still a fine piece of work.  It doesn’t dodge the issues of the day – Pride picks up on the growing threat of the Aids and the socio-economic impact of the strike on the village.  The group isn’t immune from the impact of the ‘new’ illness and every-time the LGSM returns to Wales the situation has become that little bit more desperate.

The draw of the film for me was the spirit of the two communities that are at the heart of the story.  Despite whatever set backs they face they soldier on and keep their heads held high.  I’m not that familiar with Ben Schnetzer but he was in The Book Thief (2013) and will be in the soon to be released The Riot Club (2014).  He is very charismatic in the lead and truth be told I was surprised to discover he’s a Yank.  Mackay delivers a physical and emotional transformation as the quiet, unassuming Joe who at the start of the film shuns the limelight, happy to take photos with his camera.

I’ve heard reports of audiences giving standing ovations at the end of screenings.  I don’t think its that good but you should go and check it out.

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