It’s common for films to turn major social issues and movements into middle-of-the-road triumph-over-adversity movies, often irritatingly so. But sometimes those films are so infectious and so heartwarming that they’re damn near impossible to resist. Such is the case with “Pride,” Matthew Warchus’ film an alliance between miners and the British LGBT community during the 1984 miners’ strike against Margaret Thatcher.
“Pride” downplays the fact that the strike eventually failed, yet few seem to mind the happy face it puts on history. The film is less about the event itself and more about a bridge between the gay and straight worlds during a not-so-gay-friendly era, and how that opened up possibilities in the future. Add in a good dose of British culture clash humor and winning performances from both the miners’ side (Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton) and the LGBT group (Dominic West, Ben Schnetzer), and you’ve got a “The Full Monty”-style crowd-pleaser capable of melting the staunchest cynic’s heart.
“Pride” hits theaters September 26.
Dave Calhoun, Time Out London
That’s not to say “Pride” is especially daring; but for a defiantly mainstream film, it’s free of coyness or embarrassment and unashamed of shouting about the powers of solidarity, friendship and empathy. It’s a joyous film, full of love and warmth but unafraid to admit that with sticking out your neck comes struggle and sorrow. Truly lovely. Read more.
Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
The cast is so well picked, it’s not chemistry they have so much as alchemy, and each actor seems to bring out the best in the other. Bill Nighy has been playing Bill Nighy for so long that some of us had forgotten he could play other people too, but he’s excellent here; a kindly foil for Staunton’s bustling, can-do busybody. Read more.
Mike D’Angelo, The Dissolve
Most of the time, however, the film’s culture-clash comedy isn’t nearly so broad. Instead, it’s simply energetic, like a puppy eager to clamber up your chest and lick your face. Good luck pushing that puppy away, and good luck refusing to smile at the rollicking good humor Warchus inspires from his cast, made up almost entirely of fresh-faced youngsters (West plays the oldest LGSM member, based on the second Brit ever diagnosed as HIV-positive) and award-winning elders (with Nighy a gentle standout as the mining community’s resident poet, who harbors an obvious but nonetheless affecting secret)…No matter how much this story has been streamlined for accessibility’s sake, its import remains potent. In spite of numerous missteps, “Pride” gets that across. Read more.
David Denby, The New Yorker
Warchus has directed many successful theatrical productions, including musicals, and in this, his first movie in more than a decade, he appears to have an instinctive grasp of film tempo and mood. He moves quickly through crowd scenes and the procedural tasks that the groups perform to build their movement, and then slows down for the personal encounters, many of which are both heart-wrenching and funny. “Pride” has an easy flow and a generous appreciation of vivid temperament and talent of any kind. If you can do something helpful, you’re O.K.—that’s one meaning of solidarity. The actual merger of the two groups, one guesses, was less jaunty than what’s onscreen, but the filmmakers must have thought that this moment, when all hopes were raised, should have the jubilance of a celebratory fable. Read more.
A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club
That much becomes clear by the end, when the movie plays up the positive outcomes of the alliance—including the addition of LGBT equality to the Labour Party’s platform—rather than focus on the strike’s failure. Then again, doing the latter would deflect the positive vibes the filmmakers put out, especially during a genuinely rousing final march set to Welsh protest music. Manipulative but big-hearted, “Pride” is an ode to activism as a social equalizer, and a gushy illustration of the belief that hearts and minds can be changed, and that it’s impossible to truly battle oppression without opposing all forms of oppression. Why resist? Read more.
Mark Kermode, The Guardian
Holding it all together is a strong thread of “Full Monty“ humour, Beresford taking a leaf out of Simon Beaufoy’s book and giving all the best lines to the working-class women whose indomitable spirit equals and outdoes that of their embattled menfolk. Imelda Staunton is magnificent as Hefina, making the most of her heavily trailed declaration that “We’re just off to Swansea now for a massive les-off!” and leading her drunken cohort through the gay bars of London with game aplomb. Nor does Warchus shy away from the sex which so often dare not speak its name in mainstream movies – what snogging there is knows no gender boundaries, and a sprinkling of dildos and unzipped centrefolds (“God, that takes me back!”) ensures that this pays more than coy lip-service to its equal-ops mantra. It’s significant, too, that Joe’s first kiss coincides with the climax of a rousing speech about solidarity, ensuring that the personal and political go hand-in-hand throughout. Read more.
Oliver Lyttelton, The Playlist
There are places in which the film could risk becoming overly sentimental, but if there is sentiment there, Warchus really earns it. In part, it’s because he’s honest about pairing victories with defeats, and not sugarcoating the real events (there’s no glossing over that the miners didn’t win the strike, for instance). But also it’s that the film has more in common with Ken Loach than, say, “The Full Monty.” Read more.