The 1984 Miners’ strike in Britain is considered to be one of the most defining moments of modern British history. The strike was a stern battle between Margaret Thatcher’s government and Arthur Scargill (politician and trade unionist) led National Union of Mineworkers. The bitter clash between the forces of law and order, which wanted to privatize coal industry (and undermine the power of Trade Union Movement), and embittered workers (strike involved 120,000 -130,000 workers) is considered pivotal in the sense that it changed Britain’s economic trajectory.
British Cinema has engineered some feel-good, sincere tales that are set against the miners’ strike. Movies like “The Full Monty”, “Billy Elliot” were all crowd-pleasers that took an idiosyncratic approach to the 1984 strike. Matthew Warchus’ “Pride” (2014) belongs to that tradition of movies that shows how courage and solidarity won over the Britain’s darkest days. It is a fictionalized version of a true story, where a gay and lesbian community of London came out in support of the miners. Yeah, it contains sugary and sentimental stuff, but at the same time it is genuinely heartwarming.
Mark (Ben Schetzer), a gay activist from London has an idea one day when he watches TV that shows iron-willed Prime Minister Thatcher refusing to meet the demands of strikers. He thinks: the gays are marginalized and so are the miners; so why shouldn’t we fight for their cause by raising money for the strikers and their families? He pitches the idea to his friend Mike (Joseph Gilgun) and they form an organization called ‘Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners' (LGSM). The other significant members of this support group are: flamboyant actor (Dominic West); a sour Welshman (Andrew Scott); a closeted suburban college student (George MacKay); and the lofty flame-haired Steph (Faye Marsay).
The LGSM starts calling every striking mining town and tries to arrange a meeting. But, the unions hang up when it hears what LGSM stands for. On day an elderly woman from a mining village in South Wales doesn’t hang up. Soon, the LGSM were met by strikers’ genial leader, Dai (Paddy Considine). He is also surprised by what LGSM means and confesses that ‘he’s never met a gay’ (to which Mark replies that ‘he’s never met a miner’), but he warms up and thanks for their friendship. He even makes a stirring speech at a London gay-bar. Dai invites the LGSM people to his home town. Initially, the van-load of benevolent visitors causes some restiveness and earns contempt from the locals, but the strike committee led by the stern Hefina (Imelda Staunton) and Sian (Jessica Gunning), welcomes the gays and lesbians with open hearts. The miners and the LGSM then take their efforts to next levels.
“Pride” portrays the age-old storyline about the attractions of opposites, and yeah it’s too sweetened remains too upbeat, but director Warchus rounds up an excellent cast whom transcends the schmaltzy elements. The charismatic Dominic West gives a scene-stealing performance, especially in the scene when he demonstrates his dance moves to the encumbered miners. Imelda Staunton was at her usual best by being sharp-tongued motherly figure. Veteran actor Bill Nighy, as the introvert Cliff, offers the movie’s gentlest performances. Of the younger supporting actors, Gunning offers an eloquent performance as a working class woman, who eventually turned into a leader.
The first-time screenwriter Stephen Beresford (playwright) incorporates many subplots that include homophobic parents, AIDS, reunion with parents, lesbian separatism, and gay-bashing. Lot of characters fighting for their place within sub-plot bogs down the central events, but the writer comes up with enough crowd-pleasing moments to move things up. Perfect amount of manipulation is employed to make us cackle or to put a lump in our throat. The scenes that brings the clashing subcultures closer are both hilarious (grannies from small-town walking through leather bar) as well as touching. The final ‘pride-parade’ sequence is tailor-made, yet it arouses real emotions.
“Pride” (120 minutes) is an uplifting film about the spirit of mutual affection that tries to cast aside the marginalization. Though it’s little over-stuffed, it never fails to make a stirring impact.