Image Credit: 20th Century Fox
There are a lot of connotations of ‘pride’. For many of us, the term has become synonymous with the LGBTQ+ community and Pride month - possessing pride in a quality that others may try to shame you for. However, in the 2014 film Pride, written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus, the word encompasses a sense of national pride on top of this. The film blends together both forms of pride by incorporating two very different communities.
Pride tells the true story of a group of London gay and lesbian activists, or “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners” (LGSM) group, who travelled to a small miners village in Wales in 1984 and raised money during the miners’ strikes. These two very different groups are brought together and form a strong yet unique bond as they learn from each other.
Growing up in South Wales, I have become familiar with the sense of national pride that runs deep within its people. Alongside this, the consequences of the 1984 strikes and the closures of a large portion of the mining industry has never been forgotten or forgiven by many who lived through them. The effects are still recognisable, particularly concerning the mining villages throughout the Valleys who were directly affected by the closures.
This sense of pride has remained strong throughout the country. Yet this crossover with the LGBT community in Pride may seem unexpected. After all, I doubt many people would expect miners in the 1980s to be the most welcoming of people to a group of young lesbian and gay Londoners. However, when some members of the group express these same concerns to their unofficial leader Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), he defends this idea explaining that ‘these mining communities are being bullied just like we are’. Mark sees himself in these people and the aggression they are facing from the media, the law, and the public. Both groups grow to unite in their pride of who they are, typified by their concert fundraiser “Pits and Perverts” named after the prejudiced media headlines they face.
This mutual understanding between the two communities is what draws these people together and strengthens their bond . The film thus entails both groups learning about the nuances of the others’ lives and explores how they can each help each other and learn from one another despite their prominent differences. This is typified both by intimate moments such as members of LGSM learning about the significance of the coal mines whilst talking with Cliff (Bill Nighy) at the Miner’s Welfare Hall, or the more humorous such as eccentric LGSM member Jonathan teaching the typically stoic Welsh men to dance to impress women.
The intimate moments between the two groups are really at the heart of this film and the blending of these communities is the crucial element to take from Pride. The film ends with the landmark events of the Miners’ labour groups leading the 1985 Pride Parade and the Labour party introducing a commitment to supporting LGBT rights in the same year due in part by pressure from Miners Unions.
My one criticism of the film is the lack of actually LGBT+, Welsh, or POC actors. In a film which celebrates being different and standing up for who you are, it greatly lacks this same diversity in its own cast. Although, I must still defend this film in that, despite 2014 not seeming too long ago, this film was made at a time when the story in itself wasn’t yet common in mainstream media.
The film was not advertised in America as including LGBT characters and instead only stated that they were London activists. Additionally, some have criticised the high rating of the film, declaring that it is credited unfairly high due to its LGBT content being deemed too sexual. I cannot criticise its lack of diversity in actors too greatly, largely due to the fact that the barriers they faced in their promotion of the film highlights that, at the time, the story in itself was new and untold, and a risk for its filmmakers.
The actors who are featured subsequently do great justice for these characters. The younger actors who make up the LGSM are not over the top in their presentations of their characters’ sexualities. They bring humour and a charm to the real people they represent.
In terms of the cast who make up the Welsh villagers, Bill Nighy as Cliff Barry is a standout character, subtle and shy in his presentation but put forth a charm and appeal that makes you sympathise with his plight as a leader of the union and closeted gay man. Imelda Staunton is another powerhouse of the film with her feisty motherly figure character, firm in her support particularly of the lesbians in the group whom she meets.
This bizarre mix of communities is consequently the core of this heartwarming but humorous retelling of this story. Pride works to demonstrate how we can continue to work together to learn from each other and that we can continue to progress and take pride not only in who we are but in learning more about who others are.
Pride is streaming now on Amazon Prime