The solidarity of the downtrodden is at the center of “Pride,” a feel-good movie based on the true story of a group of British lesbians and gays who helped support striking Welsh coal miners during the darkest days of the Thatcher era. Featuring a top-flight cast – Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine and the great Bill Nighy – director Matthew Warchus’ film is a bit too slick, stereotypical and formulaic, but it is also utterly, wonderfully uplifting and totally irresistible.
It’s 1984, and UK miners are on strike, protesting the planned closing of 20 pits and the loss of 20,000 jobs. In London, a group of gay activists led by Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) decide to help the workers by raising money. They form a group called LGSM – Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners – and target the small town of Onllwyn in South Wales as the object of their largesse.
Despite the fact that some gay activists think they should be expending their energy on the AIDS crisis, the members of LGSM feel it’s important to show their solidarity with another oppressed minority. And in fact, they raise so much money that the group is invited to Onllwyn, so the miners can thank them.
Naturally, not everyone in the town approves of LGSM. But except for a few homophobic holdouts, the town, especially council members Cliff (Nighy) and Hefina (Staunton), mostly accept them as (exotic) equals. And the cultural collisions between these groups provide some of the most heartwarming, and funniest, moments in the film.
“Pride” works beautifully on a number of levels – particularly in its ‘get out your hankies’ moments – but it does have its flaws. There are a number of inoffensive, but nonetheless stereotypical, scenes, particularly one in which Dominic West, as a flamboyant gay, shows off his disco dancing skills to the miners (it’s also one of the best scenes in the film). There are also several subplots involving reconciliation with parents, or finally coming out to them, that are a bit too pat.
But the film has a real feel for the miners and their struggles, which comes through memorably in a scene in which Nighy (absolutely wonderful, as always) tells the members of LGSM that in his town, “The pit and the people are one and the same.” In fact, it’s not the homophobes who are the real villains in “Pride,” but the reactionary Thatcher government and the toadying, right-wing tabloid press, which want nothing better than to crush the subjects of this film into the dirt.
Directed with economy and beautifully acted by all concerned (Staunton, in female battle-ax mode, is particularly great), “Pride” ends on a note that is guaranteed not to leave a dry eye in the theater. Flawed though it may be, this wonderful film is about that most basic of all rights: the right for all humans to live a dignified life.