Written by Luke Bailey
With February being LGBT+ history month, I’ve been wondering what I could write to celebrate it. The obvious answer, which escaped me for long enough I’d be embarrassed to admit how long, is a review of (arguably) my favourite film – Pride. Ever since I first saw this movie, a few years after it was released, it has stuck with me. I love its wholesome warmth; it feels like a hug.
The 2014 flick follows the culture clash between a group of lesbian and gay activists and a small Welsh mining community in Onllwyn during the 1984-85 miners’ strike. After seeing news reports of police responses to the miner’s strike and feeling a sense of kinship, the charismatic Mark Ashton sets up Lesbians and Gays support the Miners to raise money for the cause.
Pride explores the ups and downs of the fight to support the miners – whether against the prejudices of those in Onllwyn itself or every increasingly fragile funds of the community. As the film progresses both communities grow and learn together. Pride takes the audience on a journey of learning, joy and comradery.
From the get-go, Pride is delightful. It is full of small personal moments, where you can see the sparks of friendships forming, such as when Steph (Faye Marsay) and Gail (Nia Gwynne) meander drunkenly someway behind the rest of the group after the Pits and Perverts benefit gig.
This film is funny, heartfelt and emotional. With an undercurrent of fun, that it resolutely refuses to let go, Pride doesn’t shy away from its more tragic moments. It allows the audience to experience these with the cast, while maintaining its almost unshakeable optimistic attitude. At times subtle, at others defiantly not, Pride is massively enjoyable.
Joe, portrayed by the wonderful George MacKay, is the audience’s stand in. He falls in with the group of activists almost by accident, while attending his first pride event. Throughout the film, Joe struggles with accepting his identity and openly expressing himself to his family. If not an overly original arch, Pride executes it well. MacKay’s performance as a slightly introverted 20-year-old is endearing but subtle. Watching this character grow in confidence is a joy. While Joe can be loosely depicted as the protagonist, Pride does not limit itself to focusing only upon his story, it has so much more to tell.
The film spends a significant amount of time with much of its main cast. Giving the audience an insight into their many stories. One of many examples is the touching way it deals with Johnathan’s (Dominic West) early HIV positive diagnosis, his confusion at still living, subsequent sense of bleak nihilistic pain and his partner Gethin’s (Andrew Scott) fears for him. There is so much I haven’t even touched upon – Bill Nighy’s delightful performance as the elder gay welsh miner Cliff, Imelda Staunton as the unflappable Hefina or Gethin’s own path of coming to grips both with his welsh and gay identities together. However, to give everything in Pride its due really would make this article unwieldy.
The film is not subtle in the points it makes, it proudly declares its intent. Dai (Paddy Cinsidine) as LGSM’s initial contact with Onllwyn, is a wealth of poignant and heartfelt statements. Whether in his thanks to the LGSM team at a local bar where he declares in a swirling welsh accent:
“What you’ve given us is more than money, it’s friendship. When you’re in a battle against an enemy so much bigger, so much stronger than you: to find out you have a friend you never knew existed, well that’s the best feeling in the world.”
He represents what could be considered the heart of the film. He makes explicit how important and powerful friendship is – no matter who, how or why – or as he puts it:
“That’s what the labour movement means, should mean. You support me, I support you, whoever you are, wherever you come from, shoulder to shoulder, hand to hand.”
Beyond the clash of cultures and the thoughtfully depicted individual journeys, the core of Pride is a celebration of co-operation, friendship and mutual respect for anyone and everyone. See
The film closes beautifully as it plays Billy Bragg’s powerful rendition of Power in the Union over images of the Miner’s Trade Union members marching with LGSM at the front of the 1985 Pride celebration. An act of thanks and solidarity, which they furthered by pushing the motion to include gay and lesbian rights in the Labour Party’s manifesto.
While I am keen to label the movie as modern masterpiece, I am sure this would be misleading; a slight oversell. As Mark Kermode is keen to remind anyone, no film is perfect. But trust me this one is close.
Luke Bailey is a final year History student, usually found struggling to fit playing around with guitars, writing and uni work into the day. You can find him on Instagram here