Pride begins with the emotive cries of Billy Bragg’s “There’s Power in a Union”, a classic glorification of solidarity. The song is mirrored by familiar images of chaotic scenes amongst the miners’ strikes of the mid-1980s. Much like 2000’s ‘Billy Elliot’, the film’s grim, historic milieu is echoed alongside that of another equally deserving cause. Rather than focusing on a young, working class boy’s dream to succeed as a ballet dancer, in ‘Pride’ we are told the true story of a small gay rights group who come to the conclusion that the miners are not that much different from themselves, persecuted and bullied as they are.
Once the group ‘Gays Support the Miners’ is established, they head over to the Welsh mining village of Onllwyn to lend their support, where various cultural clashes invariably ensue. Thankfully, the film on the whole doesn’t meander towards the clichéd conventions of a fish-out-of-water comedy. There are, however, those moments when credibility is thrown out the window for a cheap laugh.
One such scene, for example, sees Jonathan, one of the gay activists, played by Dominic West, try to lighten the morose atmosphere of the miners’ social club by dancing outrageously to the song ‘Shame Shame Shame’ in that special way that only gays and people in comedy films can pull off. This, naturally, ingratiates the group with the womenfolk of the village and the certain menfolk who want to impress the womenfolk and so ask Jonathan for dance lessons. The scene didn’t work for me, not because that sort of thing doesn’t happen in real life but because it just didn’t compliment the tone of the film.
For the most part, however, the film succeeded because the numerous comedic moments were offset by some genuinely heartfelt scenes. All of the characters felt like real people and the Welsh mining community managed to avoid falling into the usual stereotypical traps. The casting was faultless, with relative newcomer Ben Schnetzer impressing greatly and bringing bags of contagious energy to the proceedings. British cinema stalwarts Imelda Stauntan and Bill Nighy also give us their usual brilliance. For me, a standout scene towards the end of the film features them having an important talk while casually making sandwiches for a committee meeting. The dialogue and acting is a beautifully played out master class by the two old pros.
Watching this in 2014, the film’s depiction of mid-80s backwards thinking reassures us that we live in a much fairer and equal society today. Ultimately this film succeeds as well as it does because it triggers that spirit within all of us; that desire for justice and the satisfaction found when witnessing the coming together of people to help one another, regardless of social background, beliefs, or sexuality.