★★★ / ★★★★
Historical comedy-drama “Pride,” based on the screenplay by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus, is a picture that exudes a lot of joy in humanity. It does a commendable job of juggling more than half a dozen characters, almost all of them fascinating, as it attempts to delve into the many struggles the LGBTQ community experiences in 1984 London as well as the political and economic battles that transpire during the British miners’ strike.
There is great energy in the way the picture is shot. Standouts are moments when the camera stands still and the audience is forced to observe how people interact, whether they are from the same community or from outside of each other’s comfort zones. Conversely, when two people are speaking to one another and they are front center, there is almost always something going on in the background that is worth appreciating. These two approaches construct a most convincing reality. We get the impression that we are looking at real lives unfolding.
Just about all performers offer something special to the project. For instance, Paddy Considine plays one of the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers. His character, Dai, is the first to interact with the members of the LGSM (Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners) in person and Considine plays the character with a level of appreciation mixed with a whiff of uneasiness. Because Dai comes from a community where gays and lesbians are hated, feared, looked down upon, we constantly wonder—at least initially—what he’s thinking or whether he really means the words he utters. A highly moving speech at a gay club very early on in the picture is a great surprise.
Most surprising is Jessica Gunning who plays Siân James, a future Welsh politician. American comedy-dramas might have had a joke a two (or ten) about the character’s weight or something along the lines of such foolishness but not here. Gunning plays Siân with charisma, intelligence, and fierce personality. Small moments when we see her serving her community go a long way. There is purpose in the way she moves, the way she looks at people, how she communicates her words. I found that when she is not on screen, my mind would go to her and wonder about her next great line delivery.
The film might have improved in ironing out the struggles of Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), founder of the LGSM, especially during the third act where Mark undergoes a sudden and heavy demoralization. I found the change confusing, unconvincing, and quite out of character for something so strong, vibrant, outspoken. I felt as though perhaps there were two or three scenes that did not make it through the cutting floor that should have made it into the final product. Still, Schnetzer is a solid casting choice because he has a commanding presence.
“Pride” explores just about every definition of the word and what it means to the LGBTQ community and miners community, including those who hate a particular group. Though the film has a dramatic core, it also offers plenty of hilarious moments especially when older, Welsh ladies (spearheaded by the great Imelda Staunton) visit different kinds of gay bars or clubs. Viewers are challenged not to smile when very masculine, “man’s man” miners (and their wives) are entertained by a drag-queen-at-heart as he performs a disco number.