The true story of a group of queer folks from London setting out to help a Welsh village during the miner’s strike of 1984-85, Pride is a mash of comedic odd couples and triumphs over oppression that satisfies, but predictable archetypes and glossed-over challenges are a drawback.
Mark (Ben Schnetzer) forms Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners in a show of solidarity from one marginalized group to another. His hard-partying friends, however, are reluctant to join, and the miner’s union is reluctant to have their support, and ultimately a core group approaches a Welsh village to offer financial aid directly. LGSM and the Dullais Valley Lodge make an unlikely pairing, but friendship and support come from both sides as the strike carries on through a long winter, with a helping of dancing queens and fiery miners’ wives.
The audience has a wide-eyed surrogate in young Joe (George MacKay), who isn’t out to his family and sneaks off to join the activism under the pretense of attending a pastry course (and as a trained pastry cook myself, I’m a little disappointed he skipped it!). The miners are led by increasingly weary Dai (Paddy Considine) and Hefina (Imelda Staunton), who graciously accept LGSM’s support despite the long strike and outside criticism. Bill Nighy puts in a beautifully subtle performance as local historian Cliff, but the young cast shines the most. Schnetzer is especially passionate and affecting, even as Mark is written into a well-worn hero’s arc of excitement, disillusionment and eventual renewal of faith.
Indeed, many characters fall into familiar tropes, particularly villain Maureen (Lisa Palfrey), who might as well be sitting in a giant leather office chair and stroking a fluffy cat. This seems to be one of the perils of rolling several real people into one character, which was done a number of times in the film. Andrew Scott’s Gethin is one of the few composites who shines, struggling not with sexuality but his Welsh background and his estrangement from his mother. At the same time, certain plot points end up feeling inevitable – of course there’s a wacky grandmother, of course there’s a LGSM/Welsh kiss, of course there’s a gay bashing incident, of course the Welsh ladies take the gay London club scene by storm – but few of the predictable starts continue down predictable roads, instead being lovingly handled by the cast and crew as simply moments in a wider journey.
What’s most frustrating about the film is to see some of the perpetual issues in solidarity movements be brushed aside. Lesbians Against Pit Closures forms after the male core of LGSM fails to recognize the need to address women’s issues specifically, but other than this splinter group’s formation there are no real consequences to this. The finale includes a confrontation between LGSM and London Pride march organizers who don’t want anything too political in the march, a conflict between activism and celebration that will probably sound familiar to many. The challenges of getting two seemingly different groups to work together for a common cause are deftly explored in a lot of ways, but what gets left out serves as a reminder that social justice activism and movements still need to build a lot of bridges in order to make true progress.