Movie Review - Pride (2014)

Ben Schnetzer as Mark Ashton in "Pride" (2014)
Not to be confused with Pride (2007) about the African-American swimming coach in Philadelphia! Yet, like that film, this one also deals with bigotry and discrimination. Here, the bigotry and discrimination are mainly homophobia being that the time period is 1984 in England. It's Thatcher era, which is when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990 and was the head of the country's Conservative Party. This film, however, charts the year from the summer 1984 to the summer 1985 when Britain fought for various rights like the rights of union mineworkers as well as the rights of gay people, book-ended with London's Gay Pride march. It's almost the British version of Milk (2008).

It's different in that instead of focusing on a politician and politics specifically, this movie centers on a particular group of protesters. It's odd because the protesters aren't protesting for gay rights, at least not on the surface. Before any laws are changed, the group wants fundamental acceptance. How they go about it is not by protesting for themselves but by protesting on behalf of someone else.

Like Milk, the gay activists operate out of a storefront. Instead of a photography and camera shop, they operate out of a book store. The leader of the group is the young and handsome Mark Ashton, played by Ben Schnetzer. Mark is kind of a mix of a young Harvey Milk and Ned Weeks aka Larry Kramer from The Normal Heart. He's drop-dead gorgeous but also rather hip and cool, as he dresses in a leather jacket, looking like Marlon Brando in The Wild One, sans motorcycle.

All the other members are rather hip and cool too. All are openly gay. The other members include the owner of the book store Gethin, played by Andrew Scott (Sherlock and John Adams), and Gethin's lover Jonathan, played by Dominic West (The Wire and The Hour). Jonathan is the eldest member. He's also an actor at heart. He's the most flamboyant and he loves to dance. Gethin is his grounding element. Most members are male but there is one female. She's Steph, played by Faye Marsay in her first film role. Steph is second, only to Mark, in her aggressiveness. She's very sassy and in-your-face.

George MacKay co-stars as Joe Brumley. He's the youngest member of the group at 20-years-old. He's also the only member who isn't openly gay. He's in the closet and doesn't have the heart to tell his family. He sneaks out to attend the London Gay Pride and gets pulled into Mark's group.

Around this time is when the coal miners all across the United Kingdom went on strike. The strike means the miners and their families are going without pay for who knows how long. In the meantime, the miners still need money for food and to take care of other bills. Mark decides to get his group to organize a kettle or bucket campaign as a fundraiser and then send the money to the miners and their families.

Mark calls the group LGSM, Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners. It's difficult for LGSM to find a particular union or selection of miners to be their partner. Eventually, they do find some. They find miners in Wales to work with them. Mainly, it's through the wives and mothers of the miners who bridge the gap, but LGSM isn't welcomed with all open arms.

Paddy Considine (In America and The Bourne Ultimatum) plays Dai Donovan, the leader of the Welsh miners, or one of the main representatives who is the shepherd trying to play diplomat and peacekeeper. The majority of the film is the gay group working with the miners and their loved ones in this homophobic town. It's a series of barriers going down and going up. It's "Pits and Perverts," as they call themselves.

The cast that comprises the people in that town are fantastic. They're funny. They're brilliant. They're nervous. They're awkward. They're scared and they're scary. They're heart-filled and heart-breaking. The cast has names that are veterans and have been seen in major successes like Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) and Bill Nighy (Love Actually and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest).

The cast also has talented actors who perhaps are not household names but who are amazing nonetheless like Jessica Gunning and Lisa Palfrey. There's also a cameo appearance from the sexy Russell Tovey (The History Boys and Looking) who is well known on British television.

Written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus, this film has done one better than Dustin Lance Black and Gus Van Sant. While Milk was an inspirational film for gay people and a good testament of how homophobia should be fought, it feels one-sided or in many ways limited in its perspective. This film truly makes you feel the power of its final and lasting image, that of two different people's hands coming together.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language and brief sexual content.
Running Time: 2 hrs.


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