There’s a scene in Jerry Maguire where Tom Cruise’s Jerry accuses Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Rod Tidwell of having no heart. He responds angrily with, ‘No heart? I’m all heart motherfucker!’ That’s what you get with Pride. It’s all heart. And it very much wears it on its big gay sleeve.
Although saying that, it’s not as flamboyant as you might think. In fact, given the ’80s working class setting and the fact that it’s split between London and a quiet mining town in Wales, there’s a very down-to-earth, British style humour on display and inevitable comparisons will be drawn with films like The Full Monty and Brassed Off. Also perhaps with films such as Cemetery Junction, as it’s half told as a coming-of-age tale from one of the younger character’s point of view.
The film starts with the group’s leader, Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) watching police clash with miners in Wales on TV. Behind him what looks to be a one-night stand says he’ll leave his number and he’d like to see him again. Mark ignores him, completely focused on the TV as an idea forms. From the off, this tells us a lot about him as a leader, he’s thoroughly committed to the cause.
His idea: his gay friends (and one lesbian, at least initially) should support the miners. In them he sees a group of kindred spirits. They’re being bullied and harassed in the same way the gay community has for years. And so he gets buy-in from his gang, L.G.S.M. (Lesbians and Gays Support Miners) is born and they head to Wales to support their new comrades.
Throwing together an exuberant bunch of gays and a rough and ready group of Welsh miners, you could go either way. Happily director Matthew Warchus (who’s recently succeeded Kevin Spacey as creative director at the Old Vic) opts for comedy over drama for the most part, but finds time for dramatic moments throughout. As a result these scenes stand out and give the film real depth and humanity.
When was the last time you heard the audience applaud at the end of a film?
It happened at the screening I attended. Ok, it was the Hackney Picturehouse, so you’re already playing to a fairly diverse bunch, but the point stands – this film makes you feel good. A lot is down to the characters. They’re interesting. You care about their plight and want to spend time in their presence.
Whether that’s quiet old-timer Cliff, fighting police on the picket lines (a dialled down Bill Nighy and all the more brilliant for it), flamboyant actor Jonathan (Dominic West on excellent form) disco dancing with the town’s ladies, or his quieter, more reflective partner Gethin (Andrew Scott), a local lad returning to Wales for the first time in years after being persecuted growing up – they’ve all got a fascinating story to tell and – thanks to Warchus’ direction – each make great use of the scenes they have.
There’s a few scenes here and there which you feel Warchus cut short for the sake of keeping the story tight and focused. Probably more backstory and great character moments, but perhaps not needed if you’re being strict.
Overall the film’s message is clear and consistent throughout. It’s about sticking together, solidarity and friendship, particularly from places that you least expect when you need support the most. Oh, and (slight spoiler) you get to hear a little Welsh lady say ‘Where are my lesbians?’, which has to be worth your ticket price alone surely?