The head of Imax Greg Foster (no relation I’m afraid) recently came out and complained that a frankly dismal summer for box office returns can be blamed on a ubiquity of “post-apocalyptic, dark, angst-ridden, suicidal movies”. As such he has called for more happy films to help save cinema. His comments seem relatively timely in light of Pride, the unashamedly feel-good movie of the year.
Pride concerns the surprisingly true story of a coming together of two marginalised groups in the 1980s: Miners and Lesbian and Gay activists. The latter form a small group called LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) and tries to provide support for the miners during their strikes and unfortunately and perhaps predictably, the miners are not as inclusive and accepting. The mission, then, for LGSM is to convince the miners that they share a common enemy/goal which they must collectively battle through solidarity – something that is politically relevant today it seems.
The unashamedly feel-good movie of the year.
Admittedly, as somebody who vehemently agrees with their position I am very much politically inclined to love this movie and its message. The politics of Pride is pretty tied up with the plot and the characters so it can be difficult (arguably impossible) to separate the politics from the film, and that is not ostensibly a bad thing. It is proud about its politics, and rightly so because this is a story that deserves not to be just told, but to be shouted from the rooftops.
Despite being predisposed to like this from minute one, from the rabble rousing pro-union songs to our main characters making impassioned speeches about said solidarity, but it is not the only reason why I loved Pride. It presents the struggles of the miners and LGBTQ community as being similar in that they are struggles for human rights, dignity and ultimately, pride. It shows that a collective movement can be a force for good and that –when properly applied – it trumps individuals (predominantly a prominent female politician, I’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with “Batcher”). Though, I would warn against using this as your sole source in political debates, no matter what side of the fence you fall on.
The big names…are all excellent and my only complaint is that they do not have enough screen time!
What stops Pride from becoming a piece of pure political propaganda (even if I agree with its message, it would nonetheless feel cheap) are its characters. It’s an extremely likeable bunch, from both LGSM and the miners who support them. The big names like Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine, Dominic West, Andrew Scott and Bill Nighy (who provides the best use of an eyebrow all year) are all excellent and the only complaint is that they do not have enough screen time! Which isn’t to say they are under-utilised, just that they are all great actors whom I always love to see on screen.
Although it is billed as a feel good film, it is a real tear-jerker and I defy anyone to not at least well up at certain points. It does occasionally stray into overly sentimental territory however but that hardly detracts from the overall experience. But often it is the small moments that are the most emotionally resonant. The real triumph of the film is despite the grim and serious subject matter that still spark debate to this day is that is somehow squeezes in joy and a happy ending. The biggest grin I had though was from a dance number performed by Dominic West (yes, of The Wire fame) and the subsequent reactions of the miners who are flabbergasted at the sight of a bloke dancing to ‘Shame Shame Shame’.
Pride, for all its flaws, shines through with a genuine optimism that is hard to dislike. In so doing, it avoids a potentially fatal flaw: directed and unsolicited anger (which the right seem particuarly eager to engage in). Anger which is supplanted and overpowered by joy. For this underlying reason, it is one of my favourite films of the year.