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Review of PRIDE: in UK cinemas now

PridePRIDE: UK gay activists work to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984.

In the twenty-first century one could think, and it would certainly not be an unjustified thought, that cinema was merely restricted to robots, superheroes and dinosaurs; for they unquestionably dominate the film calendar. These films cost millions, and take billions. There are guaranteed explosions and huge fights on epic scales, with landmarks such as Big Ben, Times Square or The White House being demolished into rubble. They generate buzz weeks, and in some cases, years before release, all of which translates into sales; they have their own clothing lines, toy creations and cereals. In short, they are most certainly bankable. It is for this, simple, reason that they are made, and in such vast quantities. However, with that said, there is the occasional film that does not contain robots, nor does it contain superheroes or dinosaurs; but, instead, opts for believable and likeable characters, a fantastic script and, that rarest of things, expert storytelling. Pride is one of those films.

Based on a true story, Pride depicts the work of a group of gay and lesbian activists who raised money to help the families of a small welsh town through the UK miners’ strike in 1984 by creating the LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners). With a few of the town being, at first, reluctant to accept the help the two groups soon form a bold alliance and all are strengthened by it, and achieve far more than they could do on their own.

PRIDE production photoThe film, originally, premiered at the 2014 Cannes film festival and to, it is reported, whoops and cheers of delight; something of which it is rightly deserved. The film has been compared to other British films such as Billy Elliot and The Full Monty, something I can understand given that it shares the same style of storytelling and the same visual aesthetic; furthermore, I can understand the comparison as I would imagine, only having seen it once, one could watch repeatedly and still make you smile, and have the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention. The sheer joy that is conjured watching this film is something which has been unparalleled in any film I have seen so far this year; and, while it is something of a cliché to use the word, it is truly uplifting. For it is a joy watching two groups of people who have formed an unlikely alliance come together in the name of fighting prejudice, in all of its many ugly forms. In fact, this film, in many ways, is not about people helping a miner’s strike; but, rather, it is a celebration of humanity.

Director Matthew Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford have created something that shines as one watches it. The moments of humour, of which there are considerably many, are perfectly played; equivalently, moments of sadness, again of which there are a great many, are equally exceptional. Each character we believe to be a real three-dimensional character, something one would think a crucial cog in making a film; but, apparently, this is not the case looking to this summer’s recent blockbuster output. In fact, one of the greatest aspects of Beresford’s writing is that the characters, of whom a great many are real given that it is a true story, are people you would want to meet and have as a friend.

This, of course, leads one to talking about the specificity of actor’s performances; however, I fear it foolish to do so, for there is not a single actor on screen who is not at the top of their game. Yet, with that said, I shall draw attention to just a few of its, quite spectacular, cast. Bill Nighy is reliably good as Cliff, one of the more influential members of the small town’s community. Nighy brings a warm, charm to the character, and all of his usual ‘Nighy-isms’ if one can use such a word, to the table. One moment, in particular, being of delight is his answer to a reporter’s question being finished with a small flick of the eyebrow, a movement which says more words than any writer could ever put on paper.

Andrew Scott and Dominic West, who play the couple Gethin and Jonathan respectively, are a marvel to behold. Scott and West play their characters with a certain grace that comes from them being, slightly, older than the other members of LGSM. They are the two that have been in the longest relationship and much of their communication is done through the looks they give to one another in moments of silence. It is a relationship played not as lust, but as love. And, it is this skill that makes the audience believe in their relationship whole heartedly. To go on, one of the greatest moments in the film is a dance scene where West teaches the small community what it really means to dance, and it is impossible not to smile as he does so.

Finally, and arguably the lead of the film, George MacKay who plays Joe. MacKay is who the audience spends the greatest amount of time with as we watch him juggle his involvement with activism and his conservative home life. We see MacKay welcomed into the LGBT community by stumbling into a gay pride march in the opening of the film, and we watch his slow progression from being nervous to stand amongst the crowd, to leading it in the film’s final act. MacKay plays Joe with a sweetness and vulnerability that makes him the most compelling to watch in a film over packed with sensational performances.

Pride is the perfect name for this film, not only because it is what every character embodies, but because it is the sensation one feels upon leaving the cinema. Pride in the belief that people can come together to fight prejudice and those that aim to isolate others. Pride in the knowledge that, as the film teaches us, we always have a friend, even if that friend is unknown to us. And, pride in that fact that is a true story.

Review by Oliver Clark

Not the West End or Off West End, but we were invited to review the film this week and thought a review of the film might be of interest.

Read full details of the film and synopsis at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3169706/

Friday 12th September


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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