Overview: The true story of a group of U.K. gay activists who worked to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984.
Finding the Comedy: I promised myself (and my editor) that this review would not descend into a political rant. But I will say as someone who grew up in Northern England during the 80’s, the miner’s strike was a big part of my education ofthe world. Seeing images of miners being attacked by police fostered in me a lasting distrust of authority and a hatred (though that word does not do it justice) of Margaret Thatcher. It is also an event that has spawned some very entertaining, feel good movies such as Billy Elliot and Brassed Off (and The Full Monty, which isn’t about the miner’s strike but covers a lot of the same territory). Because it was such an awful thing to befall these mining communities, we find ourselves creating entertainment that focuses on the joy amidst the sorrow of picket lines, rioting, food drives, poverty, domestic disputes, and brutality. Pride falls into this category. It manages to present a very bleak situation while infusing it with light. The very premise of a group of gay men and lesbians entering a small mining town in 1980s Wales and trying to fit in is ripe for comedy, and comedy is something this situation needs.
Victory to the Miners!: Ben Schnetzer plays Mark, a young, idealistic gay man out to change the world. At the beginning of the movie he has the realisation that the miners and gay people have a few things in common. Or at least a few of the same enemies (i.e. tabloids, Thatcher, the general populace, etc.) and decides to help the miners by forming Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM). After a few aborted attempts to contact miners unions they eventually contact a small mining town called Dulais and meet one of its citizens, Dai, played by the awesome Paddy Considine (watch Dead Men’s Shoes), whose speech at a gay bar was the first time I was brought to tears (first and definitely not last).
Imelda Staunton gives a fantastic performance as Hefina the bolshie Welsh matriarch who instantly takes to LGSM and helps integrate them into the community. Bill Nighy is reliably great as the awkward and stoic Cliff (who has an incredible little scene with Staunton near the end) and George Mackay is amazing as young Joe, a 20-year-old just coming to terms with his sexuality who gets swept along with the group.
Overall: If you’re not in tears by the end of the film you either have that disease where you have no tear ducts (Sjögren’s syndrome, thanks Google) or you have no soul (Thatcher’s Syndrome – zing!). The movie dances the fine line that keeps it from descending into melodrama. It does so with great performances (Oh yeah, Dominic West is sensational!), a sense of fun that keeps it all afloat when it could easily be sank by the misery and bigotry that threatens to overwhelm it, and a keen eye on the subject matter that maintains a reality without overdoing it.