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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 17 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 42
Pride a rousing feel-good film with heartfelt lessons of unity
Arts & Entertainment
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Pride a rousing feel-good film with heartfelt lessons of unity

by Gary M. Kramer - SGN Contributing Writer

PRIDE
HARVARD EXIT
Now playing


A feel-good film, Pride chronicles the efforts of an LGBT group in 1984 to raise money to support striking Welsh miners. This rousing period drama, based on a true story, shows the power of activism and how the LGBT community found solidarity with - and rallied to support - another oppressed group in Thatcher's England.

The film, directed by Matthew Warchus and written by Stephen Beresford, introduces its queer characters first. Joe (George MacKay) is a closeted 20 year-old student who lives at home. At a Gay pride march on June 30, 1984, he is unexpectedly asked by Mike (Joseph Gilgun) to help hold a banner. He soon finds a makeshift family in Mark (Ben Schnetzer), the group's leader, and Steph (Faye Marsay), the Lesbian member, as well as Jonathan (Dominic West) and his lover Gethin (Andrew Scott), a Welsh man who owns the 'Gay's the Word' bookstore, where the group meets.

On Mark's direction, this ragtag group of queer activists creates 'Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners' (LGSM). They eventually donate the funds they raise to the Dulais Valley miners in South Wales. This prompts Dai (Paddy Considine) to pay the LGSM group a visit. His thank you in a Gay club goes over well. However, when the LGSM pay a visit to the Dulais miner's welfare club, Mark's speech falls on deaf ears. While there are members of the community, including Hefina (Imelda Staunton), Cliff (Bill Nighy) and Sian (Jessica Gunning), who appreciate the efforts of the LGSM, Maureen (Lisa Palfrey in a one-note role) is a union leader who strongly objects to the queer group's support. A battle of wills quickly escalates.

Pride shows, in slick, inspirational-movie fashion, how the LGSM educates the miners and their wives, bonding with the very different community. Sian helps the striking miners get released from prison based on the LGSM's knowledge of the law. On the social front, Jonathan's dance moves in the welfare club prompt more than one straight miner for a lesson. Meanwhile, the queer contingent finds a sense of self-worth in return. Joe becomes emboldened, and Gethin is sparked to make amends with his mother, whom he has not seen in 16 years.

If many of the exchanges in the film play on stereotypes, what is important is that the different groups find common ground against a shared enemy. The lessons of unity are heartfelt. When Mark inspires a woman at a meeting to perform a stirring rendition of 'Bread and Roses,' it emphasizes how morale is as important as money. Such messages may be preachy, but they go down smoothly.

Pride also strives for easy laughs when Hefina stays at Gethin and Jonathan's and finds a dildo and dirty magazines, or when several of the elderly Welsh ladies visit a Gay London S&M bar. What makes these pandering scenes work is that the characters are all accepting - even curious about each other - and want the same thing: Respect. They are all tired for of feeling shame, or being betrayed by their community. Herein lies the strength of their bond, which never feels false or forced.

In fact, one of the most important scenes in the film has members of the Queer community chastising the LGSM for raising money for a cause other than AIDS. The disease, it is revealed over the course of the story, affects more than one member of the LGSM. When a queer character encounters his HIV+ ex (Russell Tovey from 'Looking,' in an uncredited cameo) it is a powerful and even profound moment.

Viewers may find themselves fighting back tears during some of Pride, which gets increasingly more emotional as it marches to its climactic Gay pride parade. When a Welsh man comes out to one of his colleagues (who suspected he was queer all along), or an LGSM member stands up to prejudice, it is extremely moving. Although the film is quite sentimental and there are few dramatic surprises - Maureen will fight unfairly to exclude the LGSM and its supporters; a queer character will be Gay bashed - there is still something undeniably endearing about this story and these people becoming empowered.

Viewers will be hard pressed not to be roused by a Welsh woman unexpectedly planting a kiss on Steph, embracing her womanhood, or when Sian is inspired to go back to school and get an education - to use her mind and not waste it. Likewise, after a newspaper report, spearheaded by the (boo-hiss) homophobic Maureen who tags the LGSM as 'Pits and Perverts,' Mark takes the epithet and owns it. He creates a fundraiser headlined by the queer band Bronski Beat, which raises thousands. The film's soundtrack, as one might expect, features a fabulous collection of '80s New Wave pop hits.

Pride may offer familiar messages of tolerance and dignity, but they ring out loud and clear and never hurt to be heard.

© 2014 Gary M. Kramer

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