It’s 1984, you are walking down the sidewalks in Marchmont Street, London. Ten feet ahead, two young people, a man and a woman in their early twenties, are standing in front of the book store Gay’s The Word — each holding a bucket and looking at you intently.
“Lesbians and gays support the miners,” they say, holding the buckets at you, hoping for some donation.
Pride tells the incredible true story of one of history’s most unlikely friendships—among a group of gay activists in London and a community of Welsh miners during the Miner’s strike of 1984-1985.
The film begins with Mark Ashton, a young gay activist in London deciding to raise funds to support The National Union of Mineworkers during the UK miners’ strike. This creates a divide in his fellow gays and lesbians, who show reluctance to follow him, as the miners had been notoriously violent to them in the past. However, Mark decides to go ahead with his mission and founds Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), a voluntary organisation with barely one dozen members.
The film is an absolute joy from then on, especially when the members of LGSM get invited to meet the members of the miners’ union. The culture shock results in many memorable comedic moments. Stephen Beresford’s script gets jokes out of the most unlikely places—gay men teaching macho miners how to dance, or an elderly Welsh lady making friends with a group of young lesbians—it’s all there and in your face. By the time the elderly lady screams “Where are my lesbians?” to tell them how much she missed them and about her newfound love for veganism, I was not sure whether to stop laughing and cry, or to stop crying and laugh.
That is not to say there aren’t tough moments in this movie. Most of the film’s conflicts arise from the miners’ prejudices about homosexuality. It was a time when associating yourself with a gay organisation meant public mockery and ridicule. Not to mention the whole “gay people are unholy” thing, which was further fueled by the AIDS epidemic. Also, for the members of LGSM, there was the fear of getting rejected or abused. This is exactly what makes this story so remarkable and the film so brilliant in its portrayal.
The performances are great all across the board. Joe, a twenty-year-old who has recently come out as gay, shuttles between the joy of finally being who he is and the horror of confronting his family. At the other end of the spectrum is Gethin, who is almost Joe’s future seen through a fortune teller’s mirror, who hasn’t visited his mother in years after his family denounced him for being gay.
Ben Schnetzer is effortlessly believable as Mark Ashton, the charismatic leader of LGSM. He brings a sense of fierceness in the ensemble and his determination is the driving force for the better part of the film’s runtime.
The standout supporting cast is Jessica Gunning as Sian James. She is the wife of a miner who fights to invite LGSM to their village and to accept their alliance. She is a force to reckon with and it’s hard to look away when she’s on screen.
The film’s main strength is in capturing the warmth this story required. Almost all the characters in this film are based on real people, some of whom were the earliest patients to be diagnosed with AIDS. But Pride’s unflinching determination to be optimistic prevents it from being discursive. This is best exemplified in one of the earlier scenes where Dai, a member of the miner’s union, played by Paddy Considine, comes to London to visit his new patrons. To his astonishment, he discovers that L and G in LGSM stand for Lesbians and Gays. Confused, surprised, but relieved to finally get some support, he accepts their invitation to visit a gay bar, where he addresses the community and thanks them in a moving speech. This scene is played for comedy and warmth and sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
Above all, Pride is a story of friendship, a message that we are all in this together in the face of oppression. It’s a story of a group of people wanting to be recognised, accepted, and loved, even by the people who threw stones and slurs at them. Nothing can melt a block of ice as friendship can.
Nayeem Ehtesham loves to read and believes his degree in computer science has helped him write funny stories using his computer.