Culture & Conversation

Striking out against the hateful ’80s

PRIDE

DVD: Pride (dir. Matthew Warchus, 2014)

Time was when films about industrial strife and the working class struggle in Britain were monochrome misery-fests. Then along came upbeat tales of plucky survivors beating the odds with song, dance and a riot of colour: The Full Monty, Brassed Off, Billy Elliot, Made in Dagenham and now, most exuberantly of all, Pride.

Based on an impossibly perfect yet true story, Pride captures the moment in 1984 when gay activists joined forces with striking miners against a government which stigmatised the former as child-menacing deviants, the latter as a Soviet-backed “enemy within.” Thus, two of the most despised communities in Britain reached across the divide, clasped hands and – well, that could have made for an uplifting ten minute short. What gives Pride dramatic legs is the often hilarious reluctance of the traditionally macho Welsh miners to welcome these fragrant, exotic, disco-dancing creatures with welcome arms.

But it also ventures into darker territory, presenting the uglier side of homophobia, and reminding us that this was the era that AIDS really began its grim, devastating work.

Seen through the eyes of an increasingly confident gay teen (Gordon McKay), Pride boasts a terrific cast including Ben Schnetzer as a spikey, unapologetically mouthy activist, Imelda Staunton as a game old bird (“we’re just off to Swansea now for a massive lez-off”), and Paddy Considine as the gently bemused miners rep who sets up the unlikely alliance. Best of all is Bill Nighy as the taciturn branch secretary, behind whose rumpled awkwardness lies a rich seam of humanity.

Director Matthew Warcus and writer Stephen Beresford aim shamelessly for air-punching elation as their LGBT heroes ride into the valley to combat prejudice and Thatcherite economics. Its cornball manipulations should, by rights, set the teeth on edge, and yet it’s utterly irresistible. If you don’t end up with a mile-wide grin as Dominic West does his disco-licious boogaloo to a roomful of surly miners, you’re probably Fred Phelps. Only deader.

Pride is out now on DVD. Extras include Pride: The True Story.

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Jim Burke is a playwright and arts journalist originally from England, now resident in Montreal. Among his plays are Cornered and an adaptation of Moby Dick. He has written plays for BBC radio. In England, he was Theatre Editor for the arts and lifestyle magazine City Life. Jim currently teaches creative writing at Dawson College’s Centre For Training and Development.


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