REVIEW- Pride: On Thatcher Britain, prejudice and staying positive

Pride film still

Its 1984 and Britain’s only female Prime Minister is the common enemy of striking coal-miners in South Wales, and gay activists in Brixton, London. Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) is quicker than most to put one and one together, and he hastily sets to work. The population of the village Onllwyn in the Dulais Valley seems to double as Mark’s minibus of LGSM members tumble into it. LGSM – Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) may not be the catchiest title, but as Mark says it’s “not a skiffle band!”

It’s hard to imagine such a desperately sad, true story being quite so funny, but Warchus uses his theatre background to bring hope and comedy to the forefront of his debut movie, without trivialising the seriousness of the events.

One resounding scene is the one between Jonathan (Dominic West) and Siân (Jessica Gunning), whilst waiting outside the hospital for Jonathan’s partner, Gethin. Jonathan asks Siân what she is going to do next, and she replies “make you some soup and drive back to Wales”. Whilst Pride focuses around the coal strikes of the 80’s and gay rights, it also subtly addresses women’s rights. Jonathan, a headstrong character whose dancing in the Welsh village hall turns the heads, and attitudes, of macho-male coal miners, tells Siân she cannot waste her life. Her poor, but accurate-for-the-time excuse “I’m a wife and mother, my life goes back to normal now” reiterates how much of a change activist groups made in the 80s and have made ever since. Siân James is now a Labour MP for Swansea and has been since 2005.

The cast for Warchus’ film could not have been better. Particularly Paddy Considine, Imelda Staunton, Ben Schnetzer, Dominic West, Menna Trussler and Faye Marsay – whose eye-liner is constantly on point! Hefina (played by Imelda Staunton, who will always be Dolores Umbridge to me) was one of the first to accept and appreciate the LGSM support group within the community, forcing miners to leave their comfort zones and start talking to them. The film is uplifting, showing how quickly humans can overcome prejudice and make friends with one another.  After seeing the women’s reactions to West’s dancing, one miner introduces himself “Hi, I’m Gary. I wanna learn to dance.”

The cinematography shows a clear-cut difference between London and Wales, with brighter colours and faster shots in the capital, compared to colder colours crossing the Severn. The wide-screen angle of the minibus travelling over the bridge made the river look more beautiful than any time I’ve crossed it, and as the characters became more intergrated in one another’s lives, so did the colours. The style of filming adds to the humour of it; the scene in which Staunton bluntly tells Nighy she’d known he was gay for years, is made comical in the context of them hurriedly making sandwiches.

Seen in a strongly contrasting time, of gay marriage and almost no coal mining, this film is a harsh reminder of how we got where we are. The brick that flew through the window of Gethin’s bookshop was shocking to everyone in the cinema, yet it was reality for people in the 80s. Though today’s society is by no means perfect, the film shows we have a lot to be grateful for, especially seeing how upbeat many of the characters remained in far tougher times.

By Josie Wade

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