“Pride” Movie Review: This Lesbian Supports Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners

Feature image via CBS Films


I went to see Pride knowing relatively little about it — I basically just heard some positive rumblings about “gay,” “true story” and “Bill Nighy” and thought, “Sign me up!” So keep in mind that going into this, I had basically no knowledge of the historical events it covers. I loved it anyway. Here’s the trailer, to get you caught up to my state of mind on Saturday night:

After a brief montage of (real archive) news reports about a miner’s strike and Margaret Thatcher being her unsettlingly cold self, the movie opens on Joe, a young British man celebrating his 20th birthday with his family. They get him a cool camera but make him wear an embarrassing birthday button, because parents. Then Joe sneaks off to London to attend Pride, and you sigh loudly at the thought of sitting through yet another “closeted kid meets activists at Pride, learns the horrors of the world but ultimately comes out stronger” stories. I’ll give you that sigh, because I did it, too, but I’m gonna need you to stick with this movie, because it’s actually so much more than that. It’s my new favorite movie about Pride in the 80s that isn’t about Pride in the 80s.

Rather than focusing purely on pride marches or the AIDS crisis or any of the other very real, important issues the early LGBT rights movement faced, this movie centers on a small group of queer activists (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) and their support of a Welsh mining community that’s participating in nationwide strikes against shrinking subsidies. They struggle to find a union that will accept their donations, and once they finally do, it’s only by mistake that they’re accepted. Luckily, it turns out that the town is home to some very welcoming, kind people, and they stand up against those who resist; it’s that struggle that propels us through the two-hour film. And that’s a very clever move, because by focusing on the miner strike storyline — which was a huge national story when it happened — the film creates a more authentic environment in which to tell those other stories of the lesbian and gay diaspora.

"Wow, we've got so much dia to ex-spora"

“Wow, there’s so much dia to ex-spora”

 

Yes, our darling baby Joe learns about reclaiming slurs and standing up to your parents and how fun it is to stay out all night dancing, but the film is equally attentive to the lessons other characters are learning about homophobia, family issues, gay bashing, HIV/AIDS, the commercialization of pride, women’s rights, male femininity and more. We see Sian, a poor Welsh wife and mother surprise herself by becoming an outspoken activist and leader, and in the epilogue we learn she later became a member of Parliament. Jonathan and Gethin, an older gay couple, struggle with contributing to activism despite violence and illness. Mark longs to do something powerful with his life, but is derailed when a former partner is diagnosed with AIDS. Cliff, an aging bachelor whose brother died in the coal mines, grapples with his sister-in-law over her homophobic beliefs. Steph, the disgruntled punk with a heart of gold who serves as “the ‘lesbian’ in ‘Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners'” longs for female companionship but is intimidated by the radical feminist lesbian couple who join LGSM.

Toward the end of the movie, that couple weaves a whole new thread about queer women’s representation when when they break off to form their own group, Lesbians Against Pit Closures. The main characters generally agree it’s sort of unnecessary and/or dumb, but they don’t campaign against the group or try to bring them down. They just keep running their group and interact with LAPC whenever it’s natural, like at the Pride march that ends the movie. It doesn’t feel revisionist, because the movie doesn’t turn it into some huge schism for dramatic effect or delete it entirely because it didn’t provide that drama. It just feels very realistic and true to how activism happens: people in a movement talk and disagree, and then they part ways and do what they each feel is right.

"Where are my lesbians?!"

“Where are my lesbians?!” Right over here because they don’t have to be a part of our group to be included in our activism!

That light-touch technique serves the film so well, it’s hard to even talk about it in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re forgetting something — but not because the story is complicated and overwrought. It feels almost like trying to recount a story about your best friends from college, where it’s always so tempting to give the listener a peek into each of their lives. I learned a great deal about nearly every character in a film where few got their own devoted scenes, and I really appreciated it.

It’s also just a sweet and hilarious movie with a diverse cast of characters (for the setting, at least) that feels comfortably familiar. The ending left me more emotional and triumphant than any movie in recent memory, despite recounting some sad events in the lives of the real people these characters were based on. And whether it actually happened or not, it’s hard not to love the scene where the actress who played the white Lavender Brown in Harry Potter sings “Every woman is a lesbian at heart!” to the tune of “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” with her girlfriend. By the end of the movie, they’ll have you singing, too.

Find out where Pride is playing in your community.

Kaitlyn lives in New York, which is the simplest answer you're going to get if you ask her where she's from. She went to journalism school and is arguably making the most of her degree as a writer and copy editor. She utilizes her monthly cable bill by watching more competitive cooking shows than should be allowed.

Kaitlyn has written 69 articles for us.

23 Comments

    • I want to see it a second time just because my tin ear missed some of the dialogue due to the lovely English, Irish & Welsh accents and of course to hear the lovely English, Irish and Welsh accents (and heart-rending Welsh singing) again!

  1. I saw this movie a little over a week ago at the gay film fest here and have been telling everyone I know to see it! Unfortunately I don’t think it’s playing anywhere near me because I would gladly pay to see it again. I also went into it with no knowledge about it except that it was based on a true story and I was worried it might be too cheesy but I was so, so wrong. I am in love with this movie, it was so inspiring and just feel good, and sweet, and moving, and funny, it made me want to get up and go fight for something! I only had one little qualm about the movie and that was that the most prominent gay kiss was shadowed and I had read the director didn’t want to push the movie as a gay movie so I think it was on purpose. Despite that though I enjoyed how other issues in the gay community were brought up and handled and as far as I can tell the story is pretty true to life because some of these people are still alive.

    This movie has really stuck with me though and the real life updates of what happened after the movie ends has as well. I was already crying but then learning what ultimately happens in their government and what happens to some of these individuals is amazing. And I have to say that the actor who plays Mark was so great (and American!) and you could feel the determination and the fight that was in the real Mark and it makes that last shot so perfectly heartbreaking, I don’t think I have ever been so happy yet so gutted at the same time.

    Obviously I’ve been waiting to talk about this movie, didn’t mean for this to be so long!

    • I feel the same way! Since I saw it I’ve been starting conversations with people about the movie and intending to give a short summary and say I liked it, and then all of a sudden it’s been 15 minutes and I’ve told them every plot detail I can remember. I really, really enjoyed it, and I want everyone I know to see it so we can discuss.

  2. I really loved this film when I saw it with my queer friend (in a room populated almost entirely by gay men) – it made me laugh and cry but I had some critiques of it. Namely:

    1) The cast is not diverse. I appreciate that the people in a tiny little Welsh village at that time would have probably been white but would it have killed them to have some QPOC? As far as I can see every cast member is white with the exception of Karina Fernandez, I don’t know how she identifies but is of Spanish descent (and sports a painfully appropriated hairstyle).

    2) The scene where Karina Fernandez is trying to have a conversation with Joseph Gilgun about the need for a women’s only space, she says in order to feel ‘safe’. It’s framed in the film as being a bourgeois and unnecessary idea that detracts from the real issues (i.e. LGB rights and the miners strike)- and it’s kind of swept aside as a joke. Which was the problem. There is a real need for cis and (especially) trans* women to feel safe, and especially within the queer community when so often they can be shot down or made the butt of the joke (just like in this scene) – it actually highlights the importance of the thing it’s trying to lampoon. And it makes me sad because it perpetrates the idea of The Right Kind of Lesbian and The Wrong Kind of Lesbian. The Right Kind is one who gets on with men (gay or straight, doesn’t matter), isn’t too angry or disagreeing (i.e. Marsay’s character, who is essentially oneofthelads)- and then everyone else- the ones who question things, call themselves a Feminist (i.e Fernandez) is The Wrong Kind- and the White, Gay, Male audience I was watching it with lapped it up.

    3) In the production of this movie they actually had a call out for LGBTQIA community extras – which is really cool, but it’s kind of sad to see so many of the main roles go to straight actors.

  3. I saw this last week and cried so many happy tears. I’ve tried to get people together to see it again with me, but like you were saying, I’m having a hard time capturing exactly why it’s so magical. Sian (Jessica Gunning) was probably my favourite, her real-life story is so rad.
    Just go see it queers! It’s great.

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