Proving once again that there’s still plenty of mileage in Marx’ canonical exhortation for the workers of the world to unite, Matthew Warchus’ Pride is a ripping solidarity yarn. Based on real events, it examines Thatcher’s 1984 campaign to bring the coal industry to heel by focusing on a group of gays and lesbians from London’s gay bookstore who take to the streets to collect money for striking miners. Finding a mining community willing to take “gay” money during early AIDS days is not a given. But solidarity is about persistence and the small mining village of Dulais in South Wales eventually steps up.
Warchus is chiefly a stage director (he’ll take over from Spacey at London’s Old Vic) and key scenes in Pride work with a definite sense of interiority, offsetting the bookshop against the union assembly hall in Dulais. But beyond these obvious couplings, DP Tat Radcliffe also brings a strange, embattled intimacy both to the brick-lined streets of London and a slate-roofed Welsh village, using close-ups to contrast these environments with occasional long shots of the wide and potentially divisive landscapes in between. It’s these real and symbolic distances that must be overcome—mostly in a minibus—as both groups negotiate foreign comfort zones and travel the road to acceptance.
Warchus’ presentation of group dynamics is also excellent, with a superb cast ensemble largely avoiding stereotype as it explores the specifics of gay 1980s London and a traditional mining community. He’s helped by a sensitively selected soundtrack on which two set pieces stand out: a hip grinding flam-glam display of dance skills to “Shame, Shame, Shame” mirrored by a heart-rending choral rendition of “Bread and Roses”.
The cumulative albeit slightly over-structured feel-good solidarity of Pride is hard to overestimate and difficult to top. But a minor quibble must be that the less upbeat fate of the mining industry and the NUM is barely touched upon. Warchus says that this is not a film about issues: nonetheless, the miners’ strike was the catalyst for solidary and some residual curiosity remains as to the dynamics of its strengths and failings.
Pride | Directed by Matthew Warchus (UK 2014) with Ben Schnetzer, Dominic West, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton. Starts October 30.
Originally published in issue #132, November 2014.