Recall the film and musical Billy Elliot, the delightful heart-warming story of a young ballet dancer trying to fulfill his dreams with Great Britain’s arduous miners’ strike as the backdrop. That strike, thirty years later, is thrust to the forefront in another sweet movie that also shines a spotlight on courage, humanity, warmth, friendship and triumph.
Pride, a BBC-produced film directed by Matthew Warchus and written by Stephen Beresford, was screened as part of the Directors’ Fortnight section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival at which it received a standing ovation. The venerable Charles Theatre, situated in Baltimore’s Station North arts and entertainment district, is presenting this treasure of a film, whereby audiences—gay or straight—should eat up like an English crumpet.I understand the reason for the movie’s title Pride given that the plot of the film is bookended by London gay pride parades in 1984 and 1985 and that there is a sense of accomplishment among many of the characters in the film despite challenges. But it seems a bit simplistic and non-descriptive since the word “pride” is so generic. Perhaps, Pride and Prejudice would have been a more suitable title, but unfortunately, it was already taken. #hocoarts
That is my only quibble about this excellent film. Based on a true story with a few fictional characters thrown into the mix, Pride follows the travails of a group of lesbian and gay activists who felt the need to support the striking British miners in 1984 by raising money for the strikers’ families.While initially the group questioned why they should support a bunch of macho guys who have historically been unfriendly to gays, their young, outspoken, charismatic and handsome leader Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) argued the miners’ struggles were not that different from their own. He pointed out that gays and lesbians and the miners have common enemies: Margaret Thatcher, the police and the right-wing tabloid press.
Their newly formed group called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) was born in London’s Gay’s the Word—the U.K.’s only gay and lesbian bookstore—a venue where these gay folks hung out. LGSM attempted to raise money and donate through the national miners union only to notice the discomfort on the part of the union leadership from the public relations risk of being associated with a bunch of puffs.Undaunted, LGSM decided to take their donations to a small mining village in the bucolic Dulais Valley lodge in Onllwyn, South Wales. It was there that the odd alliance was formed. The initial meetings were fraught with tension and awkwardness with the villagers being apprehensive towards “the gays.” But through the sheer force of getting to know people on a personal basis, minds opened up and bonds were gradually created and fortified.
As a culmination of their efforts, LGSM formed a wildly successful benefit concert called “Pits and Perverts,” smartly co-opting the word “perverts” that was derisively printed in the tabloids to use as a rallying device. When that event actually occurred, the group Bronski Beat headlined.In actuality, this was a national movement but Bereford funnels it into this London-based group. What transpires is a beautiful blend of empathy, solidarity and friendship that is both moving and inspirational. And Pride’s climactic conclusion, which will not be disclosed here, is guaranteed to leave you teary-eyed.
Besides the New York-born but London-trained Ben Schnetzer who turned in a strong, focused performance, the remainder of the talented cast brought to life Bereford’s poignant and humorous script that entails several sub-plots. They include the onset of AIDS, the tense discovery by parents that their son is gay, and another gay man who reconnects with his estranged family.George MacKay as Joe, the closeted 20 year-old, was convincing and played the role with sensitivity. Others who were part of “the gays”—Dominic West, Andrew Scott, Joseph Gilgun, and the colorful token lesbian, Faye Marsay as Steph—are solid actors.
Equally strong were the Welsh characters including Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine and Bill Nighy. Staunton as Dulais community leader Hefina provides a good deal of the humor especially when she wields a large pink dildo—a scene not to be missed.Considine as Dai, the representative from Dulais, provided a soothing, amiable contrast to some of the homophobic characters. His performance was splendid.
Pride is a must-see uplifting film. Director Warchus beautifully takes us on an historic journey from the streets of London to the lush South Wales countryside and back while Bereford’s writing shows exquisitely how disparate groups of people can shrug off their differences and meld together for a common goal in this true story.The Charles Theatre is located at 1711 N, Charles St., Baltimore 21201. Tickets and show times are available by calling 410-727-3464 or visiting thecharles.com.