Rambunctious, ebullient, and big-hearted, Pride is a dose of tolerance medicine that tastes good; a raucous celebration of discordant groups uniting against oppression; a well-researched and liberating film in the feel-good spirit of Billy Elliot and Calendar Girls. It will make you want to party and parade like it’s 1984.
Based on a true story, Pride depicts a group of LGBT activists who raised money to help families affected by the UK miners’ strike in 1984, at the outset of what would become the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign. Because the National Union of Mineworkers was reluctant to be openly associated with the group, the activists took their donations directly to a small mining village in Wales, resulting in an unprecedented alliance between the two communities.
Winner of the Queer Palm at Cannes (which previously recognized Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways and 2013’s delightful Stranger by the Lake), Pride is a genuine crowd-pleaser that genuinely works. Earnest without being didactic and uplifting without stooping to sentimentality, it’s a likeable variation on The Full Monty and Milk, more Footloose than agitprop. An intriguing premise, a strong cast, and a powerful story make it an experience worth recommending.
Director Matthew Warchus – a theatre director by trade – coaxes great performances from a fine ensemble cast including Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, and Paddy Considine, and Pride vibrates with the same energy as a great stage show. Stephen Beresford’s script is fast and funny, and Chris Nightingale’s musical score is electrifying.
The filmmaking itself is admittedly functional rather than particularly artful, with some less-than-subtle directorial flourishes, and Pride hits some bumpy patches when it switches gears between comedy and gentle pathos. It also overstuffs itself with too many characters – a number of whom are one-dimensional (especially where the women are concerned) – and too many subplots.
It’s easy to find fault with Pride, not so easy to resist it. It may well become the very first musical in London’s West End to bring disco to the grim Welsh coal mines, and watching people cooperate across ideological lines is unexpectedly rousing. Pride naively thinks that it can change the world with a single movie, but as an ode to activism as a social equalizer, and a gushy illustration of the belief that hearts and minds can be changed, it makes the chest flutter and the neck hairs prick with the revolutionary fire that comes from a potent protest song.
Loud, proud, and inspiring, Pride does not push the medium into new territory, and it’s not challenging or complex, but it’s a joyous film, full of love and warmth and unafraid to admit that with sticking out your neck comes struggle and sorrow. It’s the kind of hearty, blunt-force drama with softened edges that will bring most audiences to their feet, teary-eyed, applauding, and punching the air in triumph.