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Pride PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheila Seacroft   
23 09 2014
ImageDirected by Matthew Warchus

Anyone regularly reading my stuff will know I am a curmudgeonly grumpy old woman, and nothing brings on my curmudgeons more than a feelgood, heartwarming movie. Specially if it's British. And has a poster with several recogniseable Brit thespians on the way to National Treasure status grinning inanely out at me. Imagine then with what trepidation I approached the Tyneside Classic Cinema a week ago expecting that the place would soon resound with the dull thud of my heartstrings refusing to zing as I watched Pride. But, reader, I loved it!

The little-known story ( I certainly wasn't aware of it) tells how a small group of gay activists financially ( and then spiritually), supported striking miners in 1984-5, overturning every prejudice and suspicion in the working class area of the Welsh Valleys when they realised they were fighting the same battle against Margaret Thatcher and her government. Could have been preachy, (not at all), sentimental (well, maybe a tiny bit), maudlin (never). What makes it special is its tremendous vitality, a set of super performances, and a heart defiantly on its sleeve. Lovely turns by Imelda Staunton as a formidable matriarch, Bill Nighy playing against type and with infinite subtlety as soft-spoken retired miner (he apparently did lots of accent research talking to old blokes in pubs in the Valleys - so his definitely not cod Welsh accent must be genuine!), Dominic West rocking around as a muscular flamboyant thespian, Andrew Scott - could it really be the same man who gave us the snarky Moriarty? - giving a darkly melancholic bookseller, the wonderful Jessica Gunning as Sian, one of the many working class women empowered by the experience of the strike (the real character later became an MP), and best of all Paddy Considine playing that most difficult of all types, the reasonable, quiet, good man.

Stereotypes could have abounded, but they don't, except perhaps for those outside the two groups - I thought the parents of Jeff, the sweet, shy student whose coming out coincides with the development of the plot, became rather too easily pantomime villains. It can't have been easy to discover you had a gay son in suburbia at that point of the 80s. And the macho traditional miners' doubts seem to be overcome with fairy tale speed by a bit of dirty dancing that winds the women in. But these minor niggles are expertly swept away by a real and convincing optimism about the possibility of people coming together.

How long ago it all looks now, AIDS just a whisper, then a scary advert on TV, no mobiles, no internet. Campaigns were actual, physical. Gay people have won many of their battles, but the mining areas, and the diminished unions in general, have never recovered. In many ways it's not a time to get nostalgic about, in so very many ways it was horrible, but unlike the maudlin, selfconscious, Brassed Off, the film has a sweet and robust delight in life about it that makes you think maybe, just maybe, good can sometimes, unexpectedly, come, and a surprisingly upbeat ending, gulp, melted even this curmudgeonly heart.

Seen at Tyneside Cinema Newcastle, 16 September 2014

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