It’s disconcerting when the news of your childhood becomes the historical movies of your adulthood. Pride did nothing if not confirm for me that I have officially hit middle-age.
It’s a British comedic-drama about events during the Miners Strike in the UK of 1984 (I was 11, just about aware of what was going on in the wider-world). It focuses on two small communities: one is a small mining town in Wales of the sort that suffered most during that time. The other is a London-based group of gay and lesbian people who form LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners). They take on the small Welsh community as a project for which to fundraise. The film is that story, of unlikely friendships and culture-clashes. In tone it is closes to British comedies like The Full Monty or Brassed Off; an edge of social realism and a triumph of underdogs storyline.
There’s some fine performances – Bill Nighy is at his understated best, drawing laughs at times without uttering a word; the comedic tone sits well with some serious themes of social distress and prejudice and it’s hard not to leave the cinema without at least a small air-punch of satisfaction at the film’s feel good narrative arc.
It’s not without flaws though. Some things just seem a little too easy to be true; did they really, for instance, break into singing that easily in the minibus? At times the adventures of the London-based characters come off too much like a school outing rather than engaging with one of the biggest social issues of the day. More seriously is an overly romantic view of history. The miners’ strike was a brutal and painful period of British history for all sorts of reasons, not least because it fractured families and communities. The film presents to us a picture of communities and towns united in their stand; I can’t speak for the individual town in question, but the brutal reality of the strike is that it was opposed from within the community of miners as well as by the government. Members of families fell into bitter, lifelong dispute; strike-breakers were, and maybe still are, ‘scabs’. All this because some felt they and their families couldn’t pay the price of their families’ well-being. It’s tempting to, as the film does, to play the strike as a unified struggle; but it wasn’t and it does a grave injustice to the complexity of real people in unimaginably difficult situations to pretend otherwise.
None of this detracts from the joy of the film; it should also be noted, though, that the nature of the film means that the humour is broader than The Full Monty (it really is); and sometimes that too (especially towards the end) seems a bit too easy to be true. The film also suffers slightly from Return Of The King-itis in that seems to have about three endings. By the time the last one rolled around I was ready for the film to actually end.
It doesn’t out-stay its welcome, though. The reservations are real, but not major problems.
I rated this film 4/5 on rottemtomatoes.com and 8/10 on imdb.com