Taking place in the U.K. during the summer of 1984, Pride is the story of gay and lesbian activists working to help the National Union of Mineworkers. In a time when Thatcherian legislation caused the closure of 20 mines in the U.K. with a long term goal of closing 70 pits, miners held a massive collective strike that lasted an entire year and saw many conflicts between them and the police. Seeing the trials of homosexuals in the U.K. mirrored in the miner’s struggle, the Lesbian and Gay Support the Miners group was formed, led by Mark Ashton (played by Ben Schnetzer). The story unfolds through the eyes of Joe, a young closeted gay man volunteering with L.G.S.M. As Joe helps collect money for the miners cause, his eyes are opened to a whole community that is passionate about both their identity and their activism. As their involvement with the miners becomes more of a commitment, so does Joe’s acceptance of who he is and how that fits into the rest of his world.
Pride defies becoming an average movie by conflating three elements of seemingly disjointed stories into one seamless tapestry of experience. It works as an 80’s story, a gay experience story and a worker’s rights/solidarity story. Each element is well told, thanks to standout performances by Bill Nighy as the elder miner Cliff, flamboyant Jonathan played by Dominic West and wide eyed Joe played by George Mackay. Movies like this tend to emphasize moments that are crucial to telling the story but somehow beg the question of “is this really how it happened?” in the name of artistic exposition. There were some parts in there that felt this way, for sure (there’s a scene where the gay activists teach the stick-in-the-mud miners of the small mining town how to dance footloose style…) but it ends up being forgivable as the story is balanced between that element and the bleak tone of the miner’s plight. The interplay of the different flavors at work keep the movie centered and palatable.
Overall, Pride succeeds as a call for solidarity amongst all of those who suffer indignations at the hands of unfair legislation and human inequity. It also succeeds as a feel good movie, which is strange given the serious nature of the struggles chronicled. Honest without too much sentimentality, Pride comes highly endorsed.
Pride opens today in Philly area theaters.