Let us now praise the British ensemble cast, for it is a thing of beauty and magic. The current example of this cinematic alchemy is on display in Pride, in which the likes of Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton share the screen with a whole handful of fresh young faces. Nighy stands tall and reserved; Staunton is a loving force of nature, the polar opposite of her best-known role as Harry Potter’s Dolores Umbridge. But if this movie has a star, it’s the American-born Ben Schnetzer, who plays activist Mark Ashton with a compelling mix of charisma and anger.
Pride is set in the UK in the mid-1980s, amid the massive miner’s strike. On the day of London’s gay pride parade, Ashton sees the latest news about the miners and has an idea: People with common causes should support each other. Inspired, energetic and a bit of a steamroller, Ashton convinces his friends to walk the parade with plastic buckets and raised voices, collecting for the miners. Before long, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners is formed — a ragtag, passionate group that includes Joe (George MacKay), who stumbled into Ashton’s orbit while taking his first steps toward coming out, and prickly, punk-rock Steph (Faye Marsay), who’s initially the only woman.
When they’ve raised enough money, they hit the next hurdle: Whom will they give it to? To its immense credit, Pride doesn’t milk the culture clash that comes when Ashton and his comrades trundle into a small Welsh mining town, bringing money and support, but simply lets it play out, from mistrust to uncertainty to acceptance, with a solid sense of humor. Pride follows in the footsteps of The Full Monty and Kinky Boots, films that, while undeniably comedies, set their stories against a backdrop of economic turmoil.
Though the score does them few favors, screenwriter Stephen Beresford and director Matthew Warchus are gentle with their story, which is that of a big idea on a very human scale. The outcome isn’t easy, and the victory is far from complete — especially when you consider how much the world hasn’t changed. Many things are better, but we’re still trying to figure out how to support each other against all kinds of discrimination and injustice.
Pride is a lovingly crafted, affecting movie with an undercurrent of steel: Thirty years ago, these twentysomethings figured this out. Why can’t we?