Net Picks: Pride

Net Picks is your weekly digest of some of the best movies and TV shows currently doing the rounds on streaming sites such as Netflix, MUBI, Amazon Prime, Curzon Home Cinema and On Demand services such as Freeview and Sky Movies.

2014- UK

Director: Matthew Marchus

Starring: Ben Schnetzer, George Mackay, Paddy Considine, Bill Nighy, Joseph Gilgun, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West

Currently streaming on: Sky Movies

Words: J. Senior

The British prestige movie is a genre that is ever on the rise, each year there tends to be a marquee British movie with the usual actors cropping up time and time again, bringing us light and whimsical tales of good old British spirit and under dogs on the rise, think; The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The King’s Speech, Philomena, Lady in the Van, The Theory of Everything or even Eddie the Eagle. They aren’t films that particularly challenge you as a viewer, but are more towards the end of large budget light entertainment. There’s a clear formula in there that keeps audiences coming back for more. It has seen this small collection of works begin to burgeon and become a staple part of the viewing calender each year.

Pride (and we promise we’ll review some films that aren’t on Sky Movies next week) uses the genre to its benefit and manages to convey a more powerful message than its contemporaries. Director Matthew Marchus has created a film that encapsulates the struggles of two down-trodden minorities all the while giving us that little British wink of familiarity and comfort.

There’s familiar faces in Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine and Imelda Staunton. They really act like a warm handshake, easing you into the story so that you feel at ease and are more receptive to the film’s messages.

The script is also incredibly tight; there’s a lot going in Pride, and there are a lot of stories transpiring side by side that cause knock on effects and twists in the narrative. The film is set in 1984 and focuses on a small group of Gay and Lesbian activists led by Mark (Schnetzer) who see the Miner’s Strikes as a way of promoting their own cause and spreading their own message of unity. They are turned away by most mining communities, save for one. When Welsh miner Dai (Paddy Considine) hears how the LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) want to lend their support and finances to their own cause, he invites them to Wales and from there both their worlds come into collision. The Gay Activists and Welsh Miners are poles apart in terms of their lifestyle choices, but they find as events progress that the one common thing they have, their humanity, is all they need to hold them together. LGSM begin to see that by helping others their own cause is strengthened as opposed to piggy-backing onto the strikes and the Miners open themselves up to a world they had never before experienced.

Overtly gay activists in a Welsh mining village, as a concept, does make room for some excellent comedy, but it also underpins the darker side of the Gay movement, and how only 20 or so years ago homosexuals were seen as dangerous insurgents in our society with the rise of HIV and Aids being a particular point of reference. Personally having never been shocked by people’s sexual preferences I found it staggering to think that Gay and Lesbian people were treated in such a disgraceful way only six years before my own birth. Their fight runs parallel with that of the miners who were being victimised and punished by the extremes of Thatcher’s hideous Tory government.

Pride does exactly what it says on the tin, it evokes pride in the viewer. Depsite all of the forces working against them, the characters in the film hold fast in the face of adversity. Whether that’s Joe (MacKay), who hides his sexuality from his parents to join LGSM’s cause, Cliff who after years of living as a repressed homosexual in Wales finally opens up about his own sexual preferences or even Dai, who steps completely out of his comfort zone to get support for his local cause, his acceptance of LGSM’s help feels overtly British in its sensabilities.

2016 doesn’t differ too much from 1984 for all intents and purposes. Gay and Lesbian rights have progressed slightly in the intervening years but there is still that lack of equality and understanding in large parts of our society, at times if you aren’t straight you can still be viewed as an ‘other’. We have another Tory government that is again set on attacking our Nationally owned institutions, this iteration of the blue evil has turned its attention away from British industry slightly (save for the steel works closures) and is now tearing down our health services and arts foundations. Never has a British prestige movie been so directly relevant and thought provoking before.

And honestly, never has one of these films taken you on such an emotional rollercoaster before either. To quote my cousin (who recommended I watch the film):

“Nobody makes it through that ending without crying,and if they do then they should be killed instantly with a heavy blow to the skull, because anyone who doesn’t cry their eyes out after that isn’t human”

I’ll leave it there I think…