Thatcher-era activism reigns in ‘Pride’

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Physical sensations will overwhelm you when you watch Matthew Warchus’ film “Pride.” Shivers will travel up your spine, your face will swell with blood and your eyes will become laminated with — wait, are those tears in your cynical eyes? Inspired by an incredible true story, “Pride” will physically affect you more than any film you will see this year. “Pride” is a film about members of a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists. It’s a film about Welsh miners on strike. Most of all, however, it’s a film about people and the unlikely, yet powerful, friendships that can form between two marginalized groups. Set in mid-1980s Britain, when Margaret Thatcher’s harshly run political machine cast aside gays, lesbians, poor people, miners and pretty much anyone without power, “Pride” reminds us of our humanity.

Warchus’ film, skillfully written by Stephen Beresford, beautifully portrays the most unlikely of friendships. The strife of miners striking in Britain catches the attention of Mark (Ben Schnetzer), an energetic gay activist from Northern Ireland. He quickly rallies his ragtag band of LGBT activists, explains the importance of helping other marginalized groups and forms the creatively named Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, or LGSM. The characters who comprise LGSM are a comical and emotional dream team. There is Mark, the well-spoken, charismatic leader; Joe (George MacKay), the young, nervous and closeted chef-to-be; northern England leftist Mike (Joseph Gilgun); bookstore owner Gethin (Andrew Scott); feisty token lesbian Steph (Faye Marsay) and flamboyant actor and stoner Jonathan (Dominic West).

After raising a great deal of money for the striking Welsh miners, LGSM is faced with the task of gaining the acceptance of the members of a Welsh town. The members pack into a brightly colored van and travel across the British countryside, hoping to be welcomed into this Welsh mining community. With this task come heartwarming moments of solidarity, understanding and changes of heart. Miners learn to dance like the members of LGSM, and members of LGSM learns to drink like the miners. Preconceived notions of both groups are transformed: “Is it true that all lesbians are vegetarians?” Tears are shed. Friendships form. Lives are changed.

“Pride” is a film full of movement. People are involved in great social, political and economic shifts. They move from one side of an issue to another, and this is highlighted by the cinematography. The camera itself quickly travels from one side of an issue to another: It triumphantly zooms to the text of a banner — “VICTORY FOR THE MINERS” — and then discretely backs away from the small Welsh town in order to show the true beauty of the Welsh countryside. The camera allows the viewer to realize that the smallest people, the smallest movements, the smallest towns and the smallest words on a banner are all a part of something larger. Every action that each character takes is important to the lives of all who live in Britain.

As the film comes to a close, we are reminded that the events portrayed really did take place. Although it is clear that some liberties were taken in the telling of this story, it is impossible for any member of the audience to not be emotionally overcome by the battle that was fought by these individuals. While the film closes with a positive tone of triumph, it is clear that the battle for equality has not yet been won. One leaves the film inspired, moved and motivated to fight against all things that marginalize any group of people.

“Pride” is a joyous film. Warchus has successfully created a warm-hearted, inspirational movie that gives new life to a classic style of British cinema.

“Pride” opens Friday at Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco.

Contact Jeremy Siegel at [email protected].