Monday 15 September 2014

Film: 'Pride'

Already attracting a large number of superlatives, when I first heard about this 'feel-good' film around a month ago I inwardly groaned. On no account because of the subject matter (gays and lesbians supporting the Welsh Miners strike against the Thatcher government in 1984), more because I feared that, 'based on real events', it would play fast and loose with the facts. Of course I accept that dramatic licence is a time-honoured tradition and has a viable place in the arts, but I have such sour memories of another recent-ish film viz the dire 'The Boat That Rocked', which even a Richard Curtis screenplay and no less a figure than the formidable and late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman couldn't save from capsizing. This purported to show another socio-political event, the criminalising of pirate radio stations in the 1960s, which was such a ridiculous inversion of what actually happened that I thought 'Pride' might follow the same path. In an interview with writer Stephen Beresford he claimed that everything that happens on screen here actually took place. A bold claim indeed.

This film had a big advantage for me over 'The Boat that Rocked', namely that it's a total mystery how I don't recall the issue at all, even though it had happened nearly 20 years after the pirate radios. Of course I remember the miners' strike. I was at my most trade-union militant then (me being the single departmental trade union representative for several years)  - and, not only that, only shortly before 1984 I'd have resigned from having been national treasurer of the Local Government Officers Gay Association - which was nowhere near as grand as it sounds. (From memory I think we only had about 60 members!) So I was very politically aware on at least two fronts - as well as having attended, between the mid-1970s and late-80s something like half a dozen of the annual Gay Pride marches in London. This film begins with the 1984 march and ends with the following year's, so there's a good chance that I was at one or both - yet memories of this particular subject have I none.

The film (Director: Matthew Warchus) boasts a cast that could hardly be bettered - Bill Nighy, more restrained than he's ever been, and also the best I've ever seen him - the doughty Imelda Staunton (whom I've seen several times on stage) - the self-effacing, likeable and ever-impressive Paddy Considine - and, playing a scene-stealing, camp, middle-aged gay man, the busy Dominic West, who gets, near the film's start, a fairly extended turn on the dance floor. (Above pic of him with Staunton).

The drama is around the acceptance of an offer to help to raise funds for striking miners by a small London  group of gay young men (plus Dominic West - and one young, spikey-haired and unattractively abrasive lesbian) who decide which miners to direct their efforts towards by, more or less, sticking a pin in the telephone directory. They settle on a small town in South Wales - which is also this film's location - their actual visit there engendering suspicion, distrust and, of course, homophobia, mainly suppressed and whispered but which flares up in pockets all through the film.
I accept that the film would start with hostile parties, their enmity melting with acquaintance and finishing with total acceptance. And so it does. What I found harder to believe was how quickly entrenched attitudes could change. On the other hand, there are some characters throughout the film who do cling onto their bigotry no matter what, including some physical violence, but I was doubtful that in reality they would be not only in such a minority but that they'd be vehemently put down for their opinions by members of this most macho of occupations and their families. But if they say that's what actually happened who am I to argue?

There are several mentions of AIDS. This was at a time when the Murdoch press and all the tabloids were gifted by being allowed to peddle the 'gay plague' myth with impunity. Even without being handed this subject homophobia was at its height, perhaps as a reaction against the demands for equality which had grown louder  - and Thatcher's odious Section 28, which criminalised 'promoting' homosexuality in schools, was still just around the corner. Yet all that is not really reflected in this mining community. Despite most of them having  strong socialist leanings, I'd guess from my own experience that most trade union members would not have extended equality to gays, let alone any extension of the then restricted 'tolerance' (the age of consent for gay men was still 21). But that doesn't seem to be the case in this film when from the outset many of the Welsh locals are shown as being vocally supportive.

Among the seven or eight gay activists portrayed here one or two are verging on stereotype (including the goth-like lesbian), which may or may not be accurate.

It's an interesting film (a little too long at two hours), only a bit preachy but definitely enlightening for people like me who didn't know about the episode. (Archive TV footage played does reveal that the story did, in fact, hit the national news at one point)
It's good fun at times but it didn't quite succeed in carrying me along gleefully as much as it did for some of the reviewers whom I've heard and read. Comparisons have been made with 'The Full Monty' but to my mind that was a better film.

Good enough, then, but nothing too special............................6.


  1. I doubt that this film will come over to this side of the pond and that's a pity, because after seeing the trailer on YouTube. I'd really like to see it.

    I was never aware of the miners strike of 1984 and Thatcher's role in it until I saw "Billy Elliot" and saw the devastating toll it took. It's very interesting to know that these gay men and one woman joined in to offer financial aid to the miners who. in all probability, shared the same view as Thatcher.

    1. I think this will work just as well, if not better, on a small screen, Paul. The subject is quite a geographically local one, and may not necessarily have a wide appeal beyond these shores. I also think it makes an assumption that a lot of the audience will recall the events, which is clearly not the case.

      In my years as trade union departmental representative it didn't take long to discover, to my then surprise and disappointment, that not only a high proportion of the staff I represented were far-out reactionary (not only on this subject but also re race, women, etc.), but a lot of the other union representatives were too.

      You mention 'Billy Elliott'. I suppose you saw it on stage? Coincidentally, a week on Sunday it's being broadcast into cinemas here (and maybe throughout the world, as far as I know) direct from a London live performance. My current plan is to go. I've never been to any of these live transmissions before. I only know the original film - hardly anything at all about Elton John's music for this. So, looking forward to it, even though the price is crippling.

    2. Exciting new that you are going to see "Billy Elliott" performed by the London cast

      Won't say much, but hope that you love the dance between the young Billy and the older Billy. Just beautiful.

      Will expect a full review. Enjoy the show!

    3. Paul, if I was slightly vacillating before on whether I should go or not you've now clinched it for me. I MUST go! I'll look out for what you thought to mention particularly, and a full review certainly will be forthcoming. Thanks for your 'wish'.

  2. Sheffield being my second home Sheffield being my second home....I have to say I love mr west
    I suspect I will love this frothy nonsense
    And why not
    Off to see gillian anderson's STREETCAR tomorrow night

    1. Mr West, with his weather-beaten, good looks, is easily one of THE stand-outs in this film, J.G. Pity that he's not given more to do. Even when he's on-screen he's too often a background figure, but when he's given his head he really takes it by the throat. (I can see you in that role!)

      If you're not troubled with the same 'Oh, really?' attitude that I was battling against all through this film you will doubtlessly enjoy it more than I did. In fact I was wondering myself if YOU remember the story when it was happening? Or maybe, for some obscure, strange reason, my mind doesn't want to accept it.

      'Streetcar'! Oh, lucky you! I know the play well, not only from the bowdlerised Leigh/Brando film (still v. good), but even moreso from off the page - as well as having seen it in the theatre more than once.
      You must mean you're seeing it live. I see it's coming up as another live relay into cinemas shortly and I'd love to go - but it's an evening performance and priority attention to my pussies must win out.
      I'd expect Gillian Anderson to be exceptional - and many of the reviewsstate her being as just that. I've no doubt you'll feel that it was thoroughly worth the effort.

  3. Ray,
    Thank you for this review. I just read about this film in my weekly "Entertainment" magazine, in which I check the new movies and reviews. Of course I'm in the habit now of when I see an interesting movie that I think I might like to put in my Netflix queue, I don't do so until I see "what Ray thinks." I liked "Billy Elliott" and this movie was compared to that movie. The review I did read said the movie did stretch some facts but otherwise it was pretty accurate. I will place this one in my queue. Thanks Ray!

    1. It feels like a TV film, Ron, and it won't be any worse for seeing it in that medium. I can well imagine that sitting at home, supping some wine while watching, it would give one an uplift by the time the end comes round.
      I think that 'Billy Elliott' (as well as 'Full Monty') were better films - though that is by no means to say that this isn't worth watching. It's certainly different in many respects - and will surely be banned in Russia and many other countries, which shows how meritworthy it must be.
      Do watch. I suspect your rating might be higher than mine.

    2. Thank you Ray. I thoroughly enjoyed "Billy Elliott" and even bought the DVD. I like "The Full Monty" until they chickened out in the end. Too cute by half. When producers of a movie or TV series pull a trick like that on me, (think "Twin Peaks") I tend not to trust them again. The whole premise of "The Full Monty" was THE FULL MONTY. Not that I am desperate to see men's penises (I've had plenty of opportunity and continue to do so in my life) but I thought actually showing the full monty of that sorry bunch of coal workers (and whatever) would have been a good exclamation point to end the movie. Instead the producers decided that the modesty and vanity of the actors were more important than the audience that they sold this movie too. I feel the same way when I see a movie mystery that is never solved at the end (again, "Twin Peaks").

    3. Ron, I can understand your disappointment with 'Full Monty' but that aspect/omission didn't overwhelm me as much as it seemed to have done you. I understand that they actually did reveal all to the ladies in the club (and that the one who was supposed to have been 'hung like a horse' actually wasn't!) but these days they ought to have had the guts (balls?) to have shown everything. The reason was clearly that they wanted the film to have a more general certificate than a restricted one (rather than real 'modesty' as you suggest) - after all we don't want innocent kids of both sexes seeing men reveal their 'tackle' do we now? ;-)

      By strange coincidence, the film 'Billy Elliott' is on telly this very evening, though with a start time of 9 p.m. it's way past my bedtime. Next time, maybe.

      I never saw 'Twin Peaks' but badly wanted to. I was living in Germany at the time it was broadcast here and it's surprisingly never been repeated. (No, I've never yet rented a film, though I know it's easily available).