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PRIDE - Review * 14 September 2014


Charles Dickens's famous opening sentence of A Tale of Two Cities,"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness",is phraseology of true duality, opposites inexorably linked. And in many ways, this idea of soaring joys and terrible lows can be applied directly to the events we see depicted in Pride. This is a film set in a particularly British moment of recent history, documenting the true story of the 'Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners' campaign - which raised money to help families affected by the UK miner's strike in 1984 and protested against widespread pit closures. The narrative balances prejudice with friendship, humour with heartbreak and loss with hope, and does so with such lightness of touch that by the time the credits roll you are not ready to leave this band of brothers and sisters quite yet.

Pride comes in the wake of other films set during the miner's strike in the 1980's such as Brassed Off and Billy Elliot, and like those, it focuses on how a dream can flourish and grow even in the darkest of times. This is very much a culture clash comedy drama in the truest sense, with a pair of parallel working class struggles becoming bound together with genuine camaraderie. It could even be compared to the British (and non-musical) equivalent of Rent, presenting people just struggling to survive in a changing world where money overrules compassion, the majority discriminate against the minority (male homosexuality over the age of 21 was only decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967 and Scotland in 1980 after all), and all to a backdrop of a time where the latent fear of HIV and AIDS has begun to cast its long shadow on people's lives around the globe.


The nostalgia of the costume design, hair and make-up, not to mention the 1980's pop soundtrack, adds such authenticity to the film you are swept back thirty years. You could even be forgiven for spending much of the film tapping your foot to the music and wondering why they don't make songs like that anymore (this was the time of Bob Geldof's Live Aid don't forget!) but it all works perfectly, not a pale imitation or overblown caricature of the era, but a fully realised time travelling experience that transports us back through the striking juxtaposition of the stunning bleak beauty of snowy Wales and the sweaty intimacy of numerous London clubs and pubs.


The film itself certainly has an embarrassment of riches in terms of characters, with each and every cast member delivering sterling performances. In fact, the only real potential criticism is that each character lights up the screen to such a degree that no individual is allowed the amount of focus they deserve. While Pride is an exceptional film, a character based narrative of this scale seems far more suited to the depth a television mini-series can afford. Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter), Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Paddy Considine (The World's End) and Jessica Gunning (Law & Order: UK) are the standouts amongst the Welsh mining community cast members, staunchly embracing the aid of the LGSM members in the face of open prejudice amongst others in their small community. If you were looking for a barnstorming physical performance in the film, Dominic West's Jonathan delivers it, while Andrew Scott lends the story part of its quietly aching heart as Gethin, performing with a pitch perfect North Welsh accent, whose involvement with LGSM sees him reluctantly return to his homeland after sixteen years away. In many ways though his story is completed midway through the film, functioning as the culmination of an emotional journey George MacKay's Joe finds himself just beginning on come the close. In addition, look out for an uncredited cameo from a former Sherlock cast member who makes a brief, bruisingly tragic appearance in a standout moment with Ben Schnetzer's Mark. 


Although this large ensemble of characters means that Andrew Scott does not have the screen time we would have obviously liked, we urge you to go and see this film. It is what the British film industry is all about, the type of film it does best - emotionally moving but not sickly sentimental, impassioned without being hectoring, uproariously funny and extremely dramatic, hopeful yet strikingly sad come the close - in short, a film that to its very core is about polar opposites that come to work in perfect symphony with the other, to the betterment of all.

PRIDE is out now in the UK and will be released in the USA on September 19 2014.