Pride, written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus, didn’t receive much attention here in the States despite receiving almost universally positive reviews, and that’s a shame because this movie has it all—comedy, romance, drama, tragedy, and even history. Yes, Pride is based on a true story, a seemingly unlikely one at that. Set in the early ‘80s, the film follows gay activists from London as they raise awareness for striking coal miners in South Wales. The group (the aptly named Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) reasoned that, since both the miners and the LGBT community faced oppression from the British government and police forces, they could form an alliance of sorts. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, so to speak. However odd the pairing may sound, what resulted was a strong friendship between two communities linked by similar experiences of marginalization.
Like the creative team behind Hidden Figures, Beresford found a compelling real-life event that few had heard of, one that seemed almost too unusual or anachronistic to be true, making it the perfect story for a film adaptation. Working-class coal miners and gay rights activists aren’t exactly the most natural of allies, and that serves as an amazing source of tension. Since the mineworkers’ union is initially reluctant to accept the LGSM’s support, the LGSM limits their activism to one small town desperate for help. The men of the village aren’t the most welcoming (the women and children are more inviting), and some are outright homophobic. With the men on strike, the women are supporting their families, and having gays help as well was yet another source of emasculation. At first. Charity and kindness in times of crisis go a long way.
The screenplay juggles a large ensemble, effortlessly blending historical figures with characters who feel just as real. Some notable real-life characters include Mark Ashton, gay rights activist and founder of LGSM who ultimately died from AIDS shortly after the events of this movie; Jonathan Blake, one of the first men in London diagnosed with HIV and who is still alive; and Hefina Headon and Siân James, members of the Women’s Support Group for the striking miners (the latter of whom eventually became a Member of Parliament, the first female MP to serve her constituency). And although the characters deal with the bleak realities of the time and their circumstances—homophobia, HIV/AIDS, poverty, police harassment—the screenplay and the movie never lose their sense of humor. Both are hilarious throughout.
“Crowd-pleasing” gets tossed around a lot, almost to the point that it’s an empty advertising buzzword, but that descriptor certainly applies here. The movie works towards those “crowd-pleasing” moments and earns each of them, with the final scene feeling legitimately triumphant. Not to give too much away (though, I mean, this is based on a true story—the rules against spoilers in movies shouldn’t apply to history, but whatever), the National Union of Mineworkers ends up unequivocally supporting gay rights in the United Kingdom, thanks in no small part to the work of LGSM. It’s a story of two disparate communities coming together to forge an alliance and fight for their rights. A story that’s still relevant today.
(And if for some reason none of that sold you, Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy are in it. Everyone loves them, right?)