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Review: Pride

September 26, 2014

By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Pride Poster

There is perhaps no greater compliment than to say that I left the screening of Pride with the same feelings I had after seeing The King’s Speech for the first time four years ago.

And just like that other retelling of a somewhat lesser known but very important true story, Pride is a gloriously moving celebration of overcoming adversity that left me wanting to stand up and cheer.

Like The Full Monty or Billy Elliot, other films that also came to mind during the screening, this is a crowdpleaser that deserves to become a breakout hit.  After premiering at TIFF two weeks ago, Pride opens today in limited release, courtesy of Remstar Films.

The film starts in 1984, with the determined Mark (Ben Schnetzer) forming Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, a group of London activists who come to the aid of striking workers in a small Welsh town, after their job security falls victim to Margaret Thatcher’s controversial reign.

They are welcomed by empathetic miner and union representative Dai (Paddy Considine), as well as the kindhearted and politically minded housewife Sian (Jessica Gunning), who open their homes and help them organize a benefit concert.  Locals Hefina (Imelda Staunton) and Cliff (Bill Nighy) are also quick to take up the cause, but not all of the residents are equally supportive or willing to accept their generosity.  Through one of many deeply touching subplots, Pride is also a coming out story for Joe (George MacKay), a young man from the suburbs who has to hide his sexuality from his conservative parents.

There are so many wonderful little moments between the characters, where they give each other words of wisdom or offer an inspiring speech, that it’s impossible not to tear up for multiple reasons throughout the film.  At heart, Pride is a proud celebration of simple acts of solidarity, like two hands joining together or people standing up for each other, the moments when there are no differences between us because we are all human.  It’s about different minorities coming together to help each other, finding common ground through a mutual understanding of what it’s like to be looked down upon by society.

But the film also doesn’t shy away from the dire details of the union strike and the darker realities of the time, as the AIDS crisis looms on the horizon and their efforts are sometimes met with heartbreaking defeat and homophobia.  One moment they are celebrating their achievements, and the next are washing away slurs that have been spray painted across their window.  This just makes the still quietly triumphant final scenes all the more powerful, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that I left the theatre with a restored faith in humanity to put aside their differences and pull together in times of need.

With a cast that includes strong performances from Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton, as well as moving work from Ben Schnetzer and the young George MacKay, all of the actors come together beautifully to create a rich group of characters that we find ourselves genuinely rooting for.  This is a true ensemble, and I enjoyed spending time with these people.  Director Matthew Warchus nails the perfect tone, mixing humour, drama and politics without ever taking a wrong step.  The soundtrack features an excellent selection of songs, which sets the stage for a memorable dance scene courtesy of the flamboyant Jonathan (Dominic West).  The songs are nicely tied together by Chris Nightingale’s musical score.

As certain scenes keep coming back to me, I already can’t wait to watch this one again.  With an ending that left me in tears of both emotion and joy, Pride is a profoundly affective crowdpleaser filled with plenty of wonderfully humorous and also genuinely heartfelt scenes along the way.  We might not see a more rousing, entertaining, inspiring and also moving film this year.

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