At the end of Pride, there is a dedication from Matthew Warchus, the director: “This film is dedicated to my father…who taught me compassion (and comedy).” If I had only two words to describe the rough beauty of this wonderful film, compassion and comedy would serve perfectly. Pride made me laugh and cry. As the last scene unfolded, I wept, while at the same time I was filled with joy. I watched it again, and loved it even more. And for a few days after seeing it, I told everyone I spoke to about it.
Pride is a true tale of unlikely allies during a time of extreme division in the United Kingdom. In 1984, Margaret Thatcher set out to break the unions, and the coal miners went on strike to protest her hard line policies. Realizing they shared a common enemy with the miners in the triumvirate of Margaret Thatcher, the police, and the tabloids, a rag-tag group of gays and lesbians began raising money to support the striking miners. In the next 12 months, that group became one of the biggest fundraisers in the entire UK, raising thousands of pounds for the miners.
The film begins in London on June 29, 1984. A group of gay men and women gather at the Gay’s the Word book shop after the Pride Parade, and the charismatic activist Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) points out to his friends that the police were noticeably absent at this year’s parade. Why is that? Did Donna Summer’s music suddenly bring them to their senses? “They went somewhere else — to pick on someone else.” He picks up a newspaper. “These poor bastards,” he says, pointing to a front page photograph of police clubbing coal miners. He rallies the crowd to their cause, and a handful sign on to form LGSM: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.
The next image we see is a large, clean room furnished with only a long table and folding chairs. At the end of the table, a phone is ringing. As it rings, a stout old woman with white hair comes in from another room and slowly walks toward the ringing phone. She picks up the receiver. We don’t hear the conversation, we only see the response of the LGSM group, which is a lot like the Houston Control Room hearing that “The Eagle has landed.”
When LGSM makes its first trip to Wales in an old minibus, the several stories between the outsider, punk-rock “puffs” and the solid, salt-of-the earth miners begins, each gaining from the other new understanding and perspective, some opening to places in themselves they’ve held tightly checked, others learning they have abilities they didn’t even know existed.
Several of the main characters in this movie are real people, and a fine cast has been assembled to portray them. Fans of British television and film will probably recognize certain faces and names: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Andrew Scott, and Paddy Considine. It’s a good bet that the lesser-known actors we’ll see again; like their older fellow actors, they all turn in fine performances. There’s another thing I’d be willing to wager on — I’m certain every single person involved with this film is proud to be associated with it.
There are so many scenes in Pride that stayed with me long after the credits rolled by. The one that comes immediately to mind is of the first “mix” of miners and LGSM members at the union hall. There’s a lot of drinking, talk, and music, and Gethin’s lover, Jonathan (Dominic West) is dancing with a miner’s wife when he hears her say, “Welsh men don’t dance — can’t move their hips.”
“Let’s show them what they’re missing,” says Jonathan. He puts on some disco, turns the volume up, and dances — full-out, turn-you-on, big, brawny, beautiful man — dancing first by himself and then with all the women.
It’s a wild, sexy, raucous scene, matched at the other end of the spectrum by a few quiet moments between Cliff (Bill Nighy) and Hefina (Imalda Staunton) in the union hall kitchen. As they sit side by side, making sandwiches, Cliff, a poet at heart who is almost painfully shy, reveals his greatest secret and finds that Hefina has known it all along.
And there is a scene at the center of the film: At the Dulais Valley Lodge, in a freezing cold winter, when spirits are low, a young Welsh woman rises from her chair and sings “Bread and Roses,” her voice as clear and pure as spring water. Gradually other women join in, and then all the women, and then the men. All those voices raised in testament to their history, their hopes, their faith in one another. Breaks your heart.
Stephen Beresford wrote the screenplay for Pride. From real events, he crafted a story that delivers both comedy and drama, entertainment and meaning — a story of people who belong in that heralded company of “the shoulders we stand on.” Roman Polanski said, “Cinema should make you forget that you are sitting in a theatre.” That’s what this film did for me, and when it was over, I found that Pride had also given me renewed faith in the human family, and the good that can happen when we join together to help one another.