Lesbians and gays support the miners!
by Megan Smith
“A coal miner and a gay guy walk into a bar…” It sounds like the introduction to a bad joke. But instead of a tacky or most likely offensive punch line, what follows is an amazingly heartwarming story of putting aside differences, building lasting friendships, and sticking it to the man—British director Matthew Warchus’ Pride.
Based on a true story, Pride kicks off at London’s 1984 Pride march, where activist Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) rushes through the crowd handing out collection buckets. The miners—who have been on strike since Margaret Thatcher’s government threatened to shut down 20 coal mines across the country—need their help, he says. Like the lesbian and gay community, the miners have been bullied by the government, the police, and the tabloids. “If anybody knows what this treatment feels like, it’s us,” Ashton says. Thus, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) is born.
The original members of LGSM—seven gay men and a token lesbian, the fiery Steph (Faye Marsay)—quickly take to the streets to collect. But, as they soon find out, the battle will be less about raising funds and more about delivering them. Upon hearing the words “lesbians and gays,” the miners’ union quickly hangs up the phone, or promises them a return call that never comes.
So, LGSM contacts the miners directly—the Dalais Valley mining community in South Wales, to be specific—and the miners accept their help. But when Dai Donovan (Paddy Considine), a representative from Dalais Valley, arrives in London to meet with the group, he’s a bit surprised. “I thought the ‘L’ stood for ‘London,’” he says in reference to the group’s name.
But instead of refusing their support, Donovan makes a bold and symbolic move—he goes with LGSM members to make a speech at the local gay bar. Standing on the stage, he thanks the community for the contributions to their fight. “To find out you had a friend you never knew existed, well, that’s the best feeling in the world,” Donovan says. The crowd erupts into applause. LGSM gains more members.
When LGSM travels from London to visit the miners in their own small town, however, things don’t initially go quite as smoothly. The group is met by wide-eyed miners, strained conversation, and an overall high level of discomfort. But with the help of supporters like the feisty Hefina (Imelda Staunton), who tells miners at the pub to “get out there and find a gay or a lesbian right now,” the two groups are quickly mingling. A high-energy disco number performed by LGSM member Jonathan (Dominic West) doesn’t hurt either, as he soon has the town’s ladies boogying along and the miners inquiring about dancing lessons.
Not everyone in the mining community is on board with the Londoners, however. Maureen (Lisa Palfrey), a prominent figurehead in the community, presents the main opposition to LGSM, refusing to accept help from “perverts,” and stopping at nothing to remove them from her town. Ironically, Cliff (Bill Nighy), the elderly brother of her late husband, later reveals that he too is gay.
Pride is also filled with numerous crowd-pleasing subplots—from the story of Joe (George MacKay), the 20-year-old closeted, suburban college student who finds comfort in his own skin through his time spent as LGSM’s official photographer, to the group’s members supporting one another during the onset of the AIDS crisis, to reconnecting and reconciling with unaccepting family.
The film has gained well-deserved recognition as a Golden Globe nominee for Best Motion Picture–Musical or Comedy and is currently nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Wide-Released Film.
But the most brilliant part of Pride is that the majority of the events actually happened. Real people set aside real differences to accomplish something great. As Donovan says, “You support me, I support you—whoever you are, wherever you come from.” Maybe if we all took a lesson from Pride, our own society would be a little more cheer-worthy.
Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (sonypictures.com).