“To find out you have a friend you never knew existed, well it’s the best feeling in the world”
I kind of knew that I would like the film Pride, I hoped that I would really like it, but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how much I loved it – the kind of joyous, timeless film-making that makes you want to trot tired old clichés like Great British Classics. But it’s true, it really is. And it is also factually true – based on the real story of an unlikely alliance between a group of gay activists from London and a small Welsh mining community in the heart of the 1984 strike.
Written by Stephen Beresford (whose Last of the Haussmans probably ranks as one of my favourite new plays of recent years), there’s something just straight up lovely about the culture clash that emerges between the two groups, but also in the way that the assortment of odds and sods on both sides who are completely changed by the experience. I don’t think a coda has ever affected me quite so much in the revelation of finding out what actually happened to these people in real life.
Director Matthew Warchus manages something exceptional in bringing together the broader comedic sweeps with the poignancy of the most intimate observational study. There’s immense fun in the villagers opening up gradually to their surprising benefactors – the swiftly formed Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners carry out significant fundraising activities for them – as they probe questioningly but amusingly into the unknown lives of ‘the gays’, including a frankly hilarious trip to London.
Warchus really excels in finding the quieter moments though, the spaces around the words that convey so much more. Whether it’s Andrew Scott’s Gethin crumpling at the sound of a native Welsh accent or the oceans of love that pass between Imelda Staunton’s Hefina and Bill Nighy’s Cliff as they butter bread wordlessly after a key revelation, there’s a real understanding of how to deliver such emotional power with a beautiful simplicity.
And what a cast. Nighy and Staunton both deliver great performances, along with Paddy Considine’s quietly moving Dai and Liz White (who I fall in love with more and more every time I see her) as his wife Margaret, amongst the Welsh villagers. And Scott is beautifully restrained as bookshop-owner Gethin who provides the base for Ben Schnetzer’s Mark to form LGSM, amongst whom George Mackay’s fresh–faced Joe, Dominic West’s grizzled disco queen Jonathan and Faye Marsay’s more-than-just-a-token lesbian Steph all stand out.
As the increasingly confident Sian, Jessica Gunning marks herself out as someone I want to keep a close eye on. And familiar faces pop up left right and centre in smaller roles too, usually breaking hearts as in the close-mindedness of Lisa Palfrey’s vicious neighbour or Monica Dolan’s fearful mother, Russell Tovey’s tragic lover or a rare beam of flirtatious light as in Matthew Tennyson’s delivery guy.
Indeed there’s an aching sense of much that has been lost lies at the heart of the film, a melancholy given voice in a genuinely spine-tingling moment in the village hall but which is threaded throughout. The sense of community that was torn out of the mining villages, the sense of meaningfulness that brought people together for Pride (the march); that Pride (the film) makes us feel this so keenly yet still manages to uplift the spirit in such a way is nothing short of a triumph.