The year 1984 was a grim one for the United Kingdom. All across the region, mine workers were striking, and mining towns faced police brutality and the very real threat of starvation. Meanwhile, the gay and lesbian population was fighting its own uphill battle with widespread prejudice and the onset of the AIDS crisis. This is a bleak canvas for a film, which is why it is such a welcome surprise that Pride, a movie that dives straight into this conflict, is a heavyweight contender for the most uplifting, heartwarming, straight-up joyous film of 2014.
Pride tells the true story of a group of gay and lesbian London activists who, with enough pushing and prodding from their leader, Mark (a dynamo Ben Schnetzer), pick at random a down-and-out Welsh mining community to financially support. When the group is invited to the town, they at first clash with the conservative community and then end up deeply connecting with the townspeople. Both the miners and the gay community are misunderstood and even reviled by their government and the laypeople of their land. They are the most visible underdogs of their time. There are more than enough points of connection.
The cast is a veritable who’s who of U.K. talent: Dominic West and Andrew West play gay activists, while Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy take on roles as the inhabitants of the mining town. This is a true ensemble cast, and there isn’t a single actor, star or unknown, who doesn’t shine bright. The script (courtesy of actor-turned-scribe Stephen Beresford) plays into the tropes of an inspirational movie without ever sacrificing the grit of reality. The film is helmed by Matthew Warchus, who recently brought us the musical Matilda and is also set to head up that big-screen adaptation. It makes perfect sense that Warchus’s background is in musicals. Although Pride is not technically a musical (though there is one dynamite dance number and another killer a cappella moment), it plays with all the heightened emotion and irrepressible joy of one. Pride is easily one of the most emotionally moving and flat-out fun films I’ve seen, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.