It is not at all surprising that this movie is already being adapted into a stage musical. For one thing, Matilda‘s Matthew Warchus directed it (with great feeling and nimbleness, I might add). Also, it’s the latest in a line of British movies that highlight a transforming encounter between working-class heart and queer fabulousness: The Full Monty, Billy Elliot, Kinky Boots, etc. All of which have gone on to be highly successful as musicals. It doesn’t hurt that Pride, to my mind anyway, is the best of the lot.
Pride is inspired by a true story: In the summer of 1984, Margaret Thatcher’s government was brutally facing down the striking National Union of Mineworkers – also the background of Billy Elliot. In Pride, we follow a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists who raise money to support the strikers’ families. Specifically they set their sights on the tiny mining village of Ollwyn, Wales and set off to make their donation in person.
The story is told through the eyes of Joe (George MacKay), a closeted barely-not-legal photographer, who falls in with the group almost by accident on London Gay Pride 1984. The leader of the group, Mark Ashton, cuts a passionately romantic figure, especially as played by the almost-too-pretty Ben Schnetzer. The combination of music and politics makes me very emotional, and the idea of solidarity between labor and queers really hits me where I live.
Bill Nighy is as restrained as I’ve ever seen him as Ollwyn labor elder Cliff, which makes the one time he lets his eccentricity peep out all the more effective. But this is also no place for a star turn – in keeping with the collectivist spirit of labor, this is decidedly an ensemble film, with a very large ensemble indeed, and all the better for it. I’ll just say it: Pride is simply one of the best films I’ve seen in a very, very long time.
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To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.