Power in a union
Workers’ rights meet gay rights in this very enjoyable – and deeply affecting – drama, writes Tara Brady
PRIDE ★★★★★ Directed by Matthew Warchus. Starring Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine, Dominic West, Andrew Scott, George MacKay, Ben Schnetzer 15A cert, general release, 120 min
A film about the gay community’s support for strikers during the 1984 UK miners’ dispute sounds like a worthwhile project. The news that Matthew Warchus’s film deals with real people and uses their actual names – one featured miner’s wife, Siân James, went back to college and ended up as a Labour MP – makes the exercise sound even more good for you.
Worry not. Social history just doesn’t get more fun than Pride. Yes, it offers a timely reminder that subcultures and alt.communities weren’t always interested in joining the ruling elite. (Indeed, there was a time when the priority was to club together against that dominant class.) But this wonderful film – and this is meant as robust compliment – already plays like the foot-tapping musical it is sure to become.
It comes as no surprise to learn that Warchus directed the hit West End production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. We have several lovely stories wound elegantly together. Cracking musical numbers emerge diegetically. The cast is immaculate throughout.
Sporting an impressive displaced Northern Irish accent, American Ben Schnetzer stars as Mark Ashton, a young gay man who, detecting common cause in the battle against Thatcherism, urged his chums to gather money for the miners and, ultimately, travel to Wales and offer practical support. In the film version, they meet some resistance at first, but quickly come to a happy understanding.
Paddy Considine is funny and deeply touching as Dai Donovan, a miners’ leader, and Jessica Gunning shrugs powerfully as Ms James. Space prohibits full discussion of top turns by Imelda Staunton (lovable stalwart), Dominic West (camp luvvie), and Andrew Scott (displaced Welshman).
There is, of course, a looming sadness here. Watching a film about gay men in the 1980s is not unlike watching a film concerning young men in the days before the first
Hands-on activism: Imelda Staunton gets down in Pride
World War. A big disease with a little name is on the way. But Pride is a tribute, not any sort of sombre memorial.
No denouement to any recent film has demanded so much punching of the air. It’s never too late to shout: “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie! Out, out, out!”