February 8, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: Unlikely true story of ‘Pride’ illuminates social issues


Directed by Matthew Warchus

Opening with real-life footage from Margaret Thatcher’s politically divided England, police brutality sets the stage for an unlikely friendship between two sources that have more in common than they may realize: the gay community and the working-class mining community. The 1984 miners’ strike is nothing new on film — the beloved film “Billy Elliot” is proof of this — but “Pride” shows a true story that restores faith in human kindness through the friendship of two completely different groups facing similar challenges.

“Pride” centers on the true story of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group, led by Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), a young, idealistic gay man who wants to help the mining community after realizing it faces similar public discrimination and cruelty. After the group starts to collect money at gay pride parades, LGSM has trouble finding a mining union to accept its earnings. They choose a small mining village at random. This community turns out to be Onllwyn, Wales. There they meet miners for the first time, and the miners meet gays and lesbians for the first time. The mining community has to grapple with the new and still risque idea of gays and lesbians being its main supporters and donors.

“Pride” has a slow start. It seems that in the beginning of the 120-minute film, the same idea of helping the miners will be repeated over and over again. Yet this slow start actually helps to introduce the many characters who will be the hallmark of the film. The characters in “Pride,” both the miners and the members of LGSM, have their moments to shine, whether it is through heartfelt speeches or quiet character moments that keep their emotional impact without dialogue.

One particular standout is George MacKay’s character, Joe Copper, who participates in LGSM without telling his parents for fear of homosexual rejection. Instead of his actual family giving him the love he wants and rightly deserves, it is the support group and mining community that encourage him to grow into the man he is becoming. Copper shows the transition from gawky to self-assured by the way he carries himself and by the conviction in which he talks with his friends and his family. By the end of the movie, the audience has enjoyed seeing his development as a character, and he has come far from the boy who was too embarrassed to carry a banner in the pride parade.

Another unlikely standout is the character of Sian James, played by Jessica Gunning. When introduced on-screen, she could be mistaken for the static character of a housewife, but once again “Pride” deftly shows her assertive transition. With support from the gay community, she, too, learns how to trust in herself, especially when she bails out miners from jail using the information she learned from LGSM members. It reflects on Gunning’s power as an actress that she can portray her character as strong, personable and humorous all at the same time.

The setting provides a wonderful contrast between the grungy, sweaty and glittery London gay bars and the quaint, quiet village in Wales. It is even more exciting to see the characters transported out of their comfort zones and into the places that they would never have originally been found in, like the scenes where the mining community goes club hopping with its newfound friends. The two worlds that the characters come from cannot be any more distant in looks and feel, which makes the friendship between them all the more exciting and rewarding for audiences.

While having serious source material, “Pride” has consistent humor throughout. The script is adept and subtle, never dumbing down for the audience. Much of the humor comes through the interactions between the miners and gays, like the notably funny running joke that all the lesbians are vegans. The jokes stem from the stereotypes on which many people base the gay community, and the movie successfully treads the fine line, ultimately showing the fault behind judging a whole community without having met it. Unfortunately, the heavy English and Welsh accents cause certain jokes and their resulting lessons to occasionally be lost in translation.

“Pride” touches on homophobia, police brutality, closeted homosexuals, AIDS and even women’s rights without feeling contrived. Although some moments feel out of place, like a musical interlude that does not seem realistic, these moments are few and far between. Each character feels true because of the smart, humorous script, but it is the message the film carries that makes “Pride” a roaring, feel-good success.