Film Review: Strange Bedfellows

Now where are my lesbians? Miner’s widow’s question on getting off the bus at a London Gay Rights Parade

A film to be proud of

By Roger Childs

PrideWhat do Welsh miners and Gays have in common? On the surface not a lot, but during the 1984 Miners Strike, they got together. Both groups knew what it was like to be criticised, ostracized, humiliated and targeted by the police. The film is based on a true story and Pride, recounting the development and outcome of the unlikely alliance of London homosexuals and a Welsh mining village, really hits the spot. Definitely five stars.

Extraordinary events

In March 1984 Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government announced its intention to close 20 mines across the United Kingdom. It was widely accepted that this move was likely to be the beginning of the end for the coal mining industry.

Pride minersThe response came in the form of walkouts, strikes and pickets coordinated by the National Union of Mineworkers, and tensions rose throughout the country as people and the media took sides. For mining communities across the nation, life was very tough as money dried up and families struggled to put food on the table.

It was during this industrial impasse that some London gays decided to set up LGSM. This this is where the movie begins.

Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners

Pride LGSMA Welsh village is chosen at random and the small LGSM starts collecting money for the village. There are some interesting characters in the group including

~  the leader who has AIDS

~ just the one lesbian at the start

~ an older gay who is fabulous dancer

~ a 20 year old from a middle class home who accidently gets caught up in a Gay Pride march.

The group grows and they meet up with the Welsh villagers and get a very mixed reception. Not surprisingly, there are many lows and highs in the evolving relationship between the London gays and the mining community of Onllwyn.

Confronting the issues

There’s no significant sex or violence in Pride to justify strong ratings. The American classification board seems to automatically view any film with even the mildest gay content as unfit for people under 17. Peter Tatchell, LGBT activist

The film does not shy away from the realities of gay life and the struggle for equality in British society. There are examples of

  • gay bashing
  • bricks thrown through windows
  • gay and lesbian bars
  • public prejudice and abuse
  • concerns about AIDS
  • family pressure against coming out
  • a homosexual magazine, in one of the funniest scenes. (See below)

Sadly this candour earned the film a ridiculous R rating in America so that people under 17 couldn’t see it unaccompanied. In New Zealand there is a sensible M certificate.

The frank portrayal of the gay existence, is in fact secondary to the unfolding of a close relationship between a small group of London “perverts” and the Welsh miners, neatly summed up in the slogan PITS AND PERVERTS. The friendship was also symbolised by one of the old mining banners which showed shaking hands.

A classy movie

Matthew Warchus’s film is in the tradition of Brassed Off and Billy Elliot and has the feel good and inspirational elements of those movies. It covers the full range of emotions from anger and despair to warmth and camaraderie.

The acting is impeccable across the board and the tight editing by Melanie Oliver ensures that the story clips along to its historic conclusion. Tat Radcliffe’s cinematography is superb and he makes a meal of the magnificent Severn River Bridge and the austere Welsh countryside.

Pride laughterThere is raw emotion at times and the spontaneous singing of the union classic Bread and Roses by Welsh women with superb voices, left few in the audience dry eyed.

Humour is also a key element and probably the funniest scene takes place in a gay couple’s flat in London. The lads give up their bedroom to a group of older Welsh women who have come to the city. The women discover a dildo (What’s this for?) and an explicit homosexual magazine under the bed and collapse in laughter.

A “must see” film

Pride was only released in September and has already won two film festival awards. It has been nominated for several BAFTA Awards which it deserves to win. If you haven’t seen it, this is definitely one on the best movies of the year.

The overall appeal of the film is neatly encapsulated  by Ralph McAllister: Single camera, little dialogue, wonderful silences and revelations so delicately placed it kind of summed up for me,  the rich humanity of the film.

Impassioned and lovable is how Peter Bradshaw described it in The Guardian.

There is plenty of delightful dialogue, such as when an elderly Welsh woman asks one of the London visitors: There is something I want to know about lesbians: are you really vegetarian?