We were so stoked to find out that The Clyde was bringing PRIDE to our town. Bonnie and I went to see it last Thursday with our friends Melanie, Kate, and Amy. Now, Bonnie has composed a review of the film for your consideration. Enjoy!
*WARNING: Spoiler alerts contained within!*
Not only did PRIDE make me belly laugh, it activated parts of my brain and my heart that hadn’t been jostled since college. I feel so privileged to live in Langley where The Clyde Theatre brings important films like PRIDE into our community.
In 1984, a group of London gays and lesbians, in a bookstore reminiscent of Portland’s In Other Words, find the perfect solution to their visibility and solidarity problems. Coal miners are on strike throughout the country, and the group realizes that they share a common enemy with the miners: Margaret Thatcher and her bullheaded police force. A small coal mining town in Wales is chosen at random, an acronym is selected (LGSM - Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners), and queers hit the streets of London to take donations in support of the striking coal miners.
Due to poor telephone quality, Dai Donovan, a representative from the town ventures to London to meet LGSM and accept their donation, not realizing that the L is for Lesbian, not for London. Their first interaction is beautiful. The union representative says, “You’re the first gay person I’ve ever met,” to which Mark Ashton replies, “That you know of.” Dai turns out to be a rather friendly fellow, and invites the group back to Wales to meet their beneficiaries in person.
For many, the meat of this story is in the interactions between the queers from London and the small town coal mining families as they adapt to one another, ask questions, experience discomfort, and throw rad dance parties.
However, I thrived on the small revelations between people from the same community, the kind that can only occur when a new element or influence is brought into the picture. When small town man-about-town Cliff (Bill Nighy) quietly comes out to Hefina (Imelda Staunton), a member of the local union committee whilst they sit together applying margarine to bread for sandwiches, that is a revelation.
I would have enjoyed a little more political background in the film. We don’t catch any glimpses of what a coal miner’s life is like, and there is little to no discussion of class differences. We get a little bit of cultural context with brief snippets of Margaret Thatcher, the terrifying AIDS advertisement on TV, and the Pride Parade at the end of the film. But this sort of solidarity and large-scale resistance through striking is revolutionary, and delving into this seriousness would have lent a slightly heavier tone to PRIDE to help counterbalance the sometimes bubby and over-pleasing optimism of the rest of the film.
I appreciated that the burden of emotional beats was shared between multiple characters. Joe (a character invented for the film) is a 20 year old who lives at home and is not out to his parents. He fulfills the closeted young person – magical first love – triumphant escape narrative that many of us look for, consciously or subconsciously, in any queer film.
The unrequited love plotline is fulfilled by Mike (Joe Gilgun), who reveals his feelings about Mark toward the end of the film. The grandfatherly/generational advice plotline is fulfilled beautifully by Jonathan (Dominic West). And the position of witty and odd sidekick is fulfilled by Steph (Faye Marsay), who consistently and humorously points out that she is the sole “L” in LGSM.
Ultimately, PRIDE is an enjoyable film that tells an important story about solidarity and intersectionality in a new way, for modern audiences, and QPP officially recommends it highly. One of our favorite moments was when Mark led his friends in a discussion of reclaiming language: “Joe,” he says, “when they call us filthy names, what do we do? We take them.” And from that conversation, a “Pits and Perverts” benefit concert is born.
We also feel that it could have done a better job at delving into what intersectionality and solidarity can mean beyond the surface level. There is one moment where Mark is giving an interview about why queers should care about the coal miners, and he answers with something to the effect of : “Because the coal miners provide coal which allows you to heat water to take your fancy baths.”
Solidarity becomes truly effective when it infiltrates our daily lives, our consumer practices, and our language. LGSM could have taken solidarity even further (finding different energy sources, examining their language around striking and solidarity, etc.) but perhaps the filmmakers wanted to stay true to the original storyline. In the course of my research, I also learned that real-life Mark Ashton was a communist, which was not included in Pride. I haven’t done enough research to know how many of the plot points were based on reality, and how many were creative choices by the filmmakers.
PRIDE is a film about similarity, and it is also a film about difference. We are all the same, and we are all different. We are all human beings. We all want to be loved. We all needs things from one another, and rely on each other to get by. And what floats my boat may not float your boat.
But danger and fear and threats to peace are real. We can be in solidarity with one another, even if we are different. It doesn’t even require that we share an enemy in order to be friends. When you wish for my well being, and I wish for yours – rather, when you act for my well being, and I act for yours, the world is a more just place.
More on PRIDE:
Mark Ashton, Pits and Perverts - Peter Frost (who knew Mark Ashton)
Meet the Real-Life Heroes Who Inspired the Movie Pride - People Magazine
Pride - Rotten Tomatoes