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Review: 'Pride' ★★★

Review: 'Pride' ★★★
(L-R) Freddie Fox, Ben Schnetzer, Faye Marsay, Joseph Gilgun, Paddy Considine, and George MacKay in a scene from "Pride." (Nicola Dove/CBS Films)

Now that folks can get gay-married in Wisconsin and Indiana, it's safe to say a genial, fact-based British heart-warmer such as "Pride" can enter the U.S. marketplace without threatening the stability of the republic.

Like "Billy Elliot," "Kinky Boots," "Brassed Off" and 100 others before it, director Matthew Warchus' audience-friendly ensemble affair soft-pedals its outraged politics in favor of universal human interest, though it's ridiculous to try to divide the two. The setting is Margaret Thatcher's Britain in 1984. The national miners strike has left the South Wales village of Onllwyn in a tough spot and near-starvation conditions.

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In London, meantime, a small group of gay and lesbian activists (eight in all) calling itself Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners declares solidarity with the striking workers to the north. The group's leader, Mark Ashton, played by Ben Schnetzer, raises some much-needed money and finds a grateful union rep (Paddy Considine) in Onllwyn. The gang from London drives a brightly colored van north, and soon "Pride" becomes a tale of fish out of water, determined to swim. The locals are divided at best regarding the presence of these activists, though screenwriter Stephen Beresford locates the common ground shared by two respective and varied bands of outsiders, both the activists and the miners being at odds with the ruling party and prevailing popular sentiment.

Some of the characters come from life, others are invented. The sterling actors in "Pride" draw no such distinction. Bill Nighy's a reliable delight as Cliff, the embodiment of stoic Welsh resolve. Imelda Staunton as the progressive-minded Hefina is thrilled with the visitors; to her, they're indicators of a wider world. College-age Joe (George MacKay) serves as the storyline's guiding light; not yet out of the closet, his adventures both in London and Wales pull him out of his shell.

Parts of "Pride" are shamelessly escapist, as when party-mad Jonathan (Dominic West) busts loose with a disco routine, surely the most outre thing ever to hit Onllwyn. But nearly all of it's engaging. When the end credits arrive, updating us regarding the whereabouts of the story's real-life figures, the bittersweet emotions and symbolic (and real) victories are well and truly earned.

'Pride' - 3 stars

MPAA rating: R (for language and brief sexual content)

Running time: 1:57

Opens: Friday

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