Movies

Pride

 

Bedfellows don't get much stranger than they did in the U.K. during the coal miners' strike of the mid-1980s. In telling the little-known story of how the National Union of Mineworkers got a lift from Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, Matthew Warchus' "Pride" pays heartwarming testament to the many faces of solidarity.

Set during a one-year period beginning in the summer of 1984, "Pride" traces how restless London gays and lesbians expanded their social protest to embrace the struggles of the striking miners against Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's austerity measures. As played by Ben Schnetzer in a breakthrough role, Young Mark Ashton overcomes a fair amount of apathy and antipathy amongst his peers to spearhead the collective, which raises money and awareness to support the striking miners and their families.

Eventually, the gay group makes a tentative connection with a South Wales mining community, whose representative (Paddy Considine) admirably steps onto the stage of a gay bar to express his thanks with a gently moving speech. Soon, LGSM is making trips to South Wales, where they meet more union organizers (including those played by veteran thesps Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton), work to overcome discrimination and prove that the underdogs have more that binds them than divides them.

"Pride" fits into the popular genre of post-industrial "soft" realist films first heralded by a trio of late-'90s British pictures: "Brassed Off" (1996), "The Full Monty" (1997) and "Billy Elliot" (2000). In all three, earnest crisis gives weight to an essentially optimistic and cheery vision of overcoming through spirit, self-expression and community. When "Pride" skews toward the self-consciously goofy (low point: Staunton waving around a red dildo over a gay porn mag), it briefly misses the mark, but at least as often there's an affecting moment (a gay first-kiss scene, for example) that rings true.

Screenwriter Stephen Beresford and Tony-award-winning director Warchus ably tell the true story, despite some awkwardness in the choice to foreground the composite character of Joe (George MacKay): an every(gay)boy who struggles with coming out while at the same time coming into his own as an activist. The strong ensemble (including Dominic West and Andrew Scott as a touchingly caring couple) helps "Pride" keep a steady heartbeat, from the local union hall get-togethers through the "Pits and Perverts" benefit concert, and right up to the no-dry-eye-in-the-house finale.

Rated R for language and brief sexual content. Two hours.

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