“Pride” is a lot like a magician who tells you how he is going to do his trick and then when he does it, you are still impressed.
It’s one of those “based on an inspirational true story” movies you should be able to bat away with a cynical swipe of your hand but instead leaves you clapping and cheering just like it told you it would.
The movie takes place in Margaret Thatcher’s United Kingdom in the mid-1980s, which seems to be the setting of about 95 percent of those aforementioned British movies “based on an inspirational true story.”
At any rate, the movie focuses on gay-rights activist Mark Ashton (played with breakout-star charisma by Ben Schnetzer), who takes note of a coal miners’ strike occurring in Wales.
Mark recognizes a kindred spirit after seeing the miners endure the strong-arm tactics from the police and general abuse by the government that had also been levied against the gay-rights movement.
Mark assembles a rag-tag group of activists, including meek and closeted Joe (George MacKay), practical-minded Mike (Joseph Gilgun), blunt and forceful Steph (Fay Marsay), flamboyant and battle-tested Jonathan (Dominic West), and his reserved, Welsh partner Gethin (Andrew Scott), and the group begins collecting funds for the miners.
After raising quite a bit of cash, Mark begins to reach out to the labor movement only to find that none of the official channels will take their money. So the group decides to take the money directly to the miners and randomly selects a Welsh mining village to be the recipients of their fundraising efforts.
They meet with village representative Dai (Paddy Considine), who happily takes their money and brings them to Wales to make the partnership official.
In spite of the requisite culture shock and some initial standoffishness, Mark and his friends receive a relatively warm welcome from the hardened, working-class community that includes the likes of Sian (Jessica Gunning), Hefina (Imelda Staunton), and Cliff (Bill Nighy).
Of course, there is still plenty of tension as while many walls of distrust and misunderstanding are broken down, there is still enough homophobia and close-mindedness to cause setbacks and heartbreak.
Director Matthew Warchus, who has spent most of his career directing on the stage, deftly plays out the story in such a straightforward manner that he is able to deliver a crowd-pleasing movie that somehow avoids the traps of sentimentality and emotional manipulation.
This is a movie that smartly lets the facts speak for themselves while mixing in some great performances by a likable cast.
Movies that carry powerful messages often tend to try too hard, vigorously tugging on those heartstrings in an attempt to match the emotional power of reality. “Pride” smartly gets out of its own way and lets the story of these determined and courageous individuals stand for itself.
This is the best possible example of a film of this sort as it is an absolute joy to watch a movie that celebrates human beings acting admirably. “Pride” is one of those movies that makes you feel optimistic about life; which, quite honestly, is probably the best possible thing we could ever hope to get out of flickering celluloid.
“Pride” is rated R for language and brief sexual content.