The 1985 London Gay Pride Parade, as seen in Pride (CBS Films)

The 1985 London gay pride parade, as seen in Pride (CBS Films)

Directed by Matthew Warchus
Written by Stephen Beresford
Produced by David Livingstone
Released by CBS Films
UK. 120 min. Rated R
With Bill Nighy, Imelda Stanton, Dominic West, Paddy Considine, George MacKay, Joseph Gilgun, Andrew Scott, Ben Schnetzer, Faye Marsay, Liz White, Menna Trussler, Lisa Palfrey, Freddie Fox, and Jessica Gunning

With each passing year, the prevalence of LGBT cinema has expanded in both distribution and awareness. While the market for queer films tends to focus primarily on LGBT audiences, a recent influx of films spotlighting queer issues has extended beyond those original confines. Watching a “gay film” no longer connotes the expectation that one will (necessarily) be presented with erotica before the end credits roll. Instead, a movie that falls under the LGBT banner can nary offer a single shot of disrobing or sensual seduction—and that’s ok.

There is certainly still a need and a place for resonating gay-themed films that also offer scenes of sexual stimulation. Recent releases such as Stranger by the Lake and Blue Is the Warmest Color are proof of the value of this subset within the genre. But while these films have not become the exception, they are also no longer the rule. We can now tell stories that fully revolve around the LGBT experience but also play to family-friendly audiences. Director Matthew Warchus’s Pride is a film to which we can comfortably purchase tickets for our moms, grandfathers, second-cousins, and piano teachers. Considering the film’s purposeful message and enlivening spirit, I assert that we all undoubtedly should.

Based on true events that occurred during the Thatcher-choked days of the mid-’80s, Pride eagerly swoops viewers into the spirit of the times. Following a montage of archival protest footage, the film transitions directly to its main characters proudly parading through the streets of London during the Gay Pride March of 1984. While the urgency of the messages behind these gay rights demonstrations are promptly discernible, director Warchus (Broadway’s Matilda the Musical) does not linger on the solemnity of the circumstances. Rather, he permeates the film with a blithe, piquant energy. Pride may hinge on consequential subject matter, but it’s not seeking to weigh viewers down in the storytelling process.

Ben Schnetzer (The Book Thief) steers the film as real-life gay rights activist Mark Ashton, a founding member of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, or LGSM. An alliance of queer-identifying citizens who raised funds to support the suffering, starving communities partaking in the miners strike of 1984-’85, the founding of LGSM comprises the central narrative. Ashton’s objective—to corral gays into abetting the strikers while convincing the National Union of Mineworkers to accept help from a “gaggle of puffs”—was certainly not without its self-serving motives. But while gay rights advocacy remains a founding element of the film, Pride’s overarching themes of banding together to fight common enemies—in this case, Thatcher’s conservative government, the brutal police force, and the vitriolic tabloid press—is what ultimately propels the film forward.

Cumbersome introductions and clumsy appraisals between the two contrasting groups are depicted with well-rounded humor. Pride relishes the fact that the merging of the LGBT and mining communities was not only unorthodox, but, had it not truly occurred, could be dismissed as fictitious by today’s audiences. The outrageousness of this unexpected coalition drives the humor and the heart of the proceedings.

Amusing moments recur throughout, frequently courtesy of Gwen, an elderly Welsh strike supporter played by the mirthful Menna Trussler. The character actress perfects both physical comedy—her waddling steps crossing an auditorium to answer a phone call—and dumbfounded line delivery: “Lesbians are all vegetarians?” The whole cast is delightful, ranging from veterans like Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy as open-minded Welsh community leaders to budding stars such as George MacKay and Faye Marsay as youthful embracers of the queer London lifestyle. Other standouts include Paddy Considine as Dai, Ashton’s Welsh-based cohort in cohesion, and Jessica Gunning as Siân James, a real-life miner’s housewife who went on to represent the Welsh Labour Party in the British Parliament. Burgeoning talent is evident both in front of the camera and behind the lens.

With the release of Pride, along with other recent LGBT-themed films, including Love Is Strange and Lilting, queer cinema toes the cusp of the mainstream. Or, at the very least, it rests comfortably in the middle ground of accessible independent cinema. No longer must the genre be relegated to the fringy outskirts. Though Pride features its share of cutesy moments and glossed-over hard truths, overall it renders a touching, celebratory sentiment without forgoing the facts. And with Pride, the queer cinema movement takes another step forward, one that is indubitably worthy of celebration.