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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/23/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/12/2014
It's very easy to think of the United States and England as being similar. We both speak the same language, our economies are somewhat comparable, and our popular culture has a lot in common. For that last one, let's add "At first glance". The movies and the music may be akin, but there are some differences, especially when it comes to movies. Perhaps it's because of their history, which is longer and much more complicated, but the British have a way of making even the darkest movies still feel positive and uplifting. This is usually accomplished through a generous dose of humor and heart. The docudrama Pride exemplifies this completely.
Pride opens in 1984. Britain is engaged in a national crisis, as the coal miners have gone on strike and are battling against the Thatcher-led government. As London's annual Gay Pride Parade is getting under way, Mark (Ben Schnetzer), who has been following the strike story in the news, decides that he wants to help the miners. So, he hands out buckets to his friends in order to gather money during the parade. By the end of the day, Mike (Joseph Gilgun), Steph (Fray Marsay), Jeff (Freddie Fox), and a newcomer, Joe (George MacKay), join Mark at a store owned by Gethin (Andrew Scott) and Jonathan (Dominic West), to count the money. The group, which decides to call themselves Lesbian and Gays Support Miners, continue to raise money, but actually have difficulty finding a group of miners who will accept their support. They finally get in touch with officials in a small town in Wales who send Dai (Paddy Considine) to London for a meeting. Dai invites the group to Wales in order to meet the miners and families which they are helping and thus begins a very strange relationship in which two very different communities come together for a common cause.
Regular readers of this site know that I tend to nitpick in my reviews, so let's go ahead and get that out of the way. Pride was made by British filmmakers, presumably for British audiences about a period of British history which occurred thirty years ago. To that end, the movie doesn't offer many details on the strike. Were the miners employed by the government? Why were they striking? Wages? Working conditions? This is never discussed. Also, the film opens with Mark apparently deciding out of the blue to help the miners, which is a bit convenient. Now, this lack of extra information helps the film to hit the ground running, but it also makes it feel a tad incomplete.
OK, having said that, Pride is a fantastic movie. As noted above, the British somehow have the knack of taking very serious subject matter and injecting just enough humor and likable characters into it to make it somehow feel like a party. Director Matthew Warchus and Writer Stephen Beresford take the torch from the likes of Richard Curtis and continue this tradition of movies which should be depressing and making them very inviting. Again, Pride is off and running with Mark collecting money at the parade, and it never slows down from there, taking inside not one, but two interesting worlds. Again, this is a true story, but it almost feels too far-fetched to even be a movie, as we rarely see this kind of altruism in real life. But, it's this unique story which serves as the jumping off point for the film.
The thing which really makes Pride work are the characters. The film could have very easily been populated by stereotypes on both sides, but it very wisely side-steps this. The whole theme of the film is that people are people and that's exactly what we get with the characters. Mark's group doesn't contains any flaming queens or butch lesbians -- the kind of cookie-cutter (And I would assume, offensive) gay character which we would get from a Hollywood film. Sure, Steph may have orange hair, but other than that, they are simply people. The same goes for the miners. These men and women are desperate for help and they may be stand-offish at first, but they appreciate the help from the LGSM. Dai, Sian (Jessica Gunning), Hefina (Imelda Staunton), and Cliff (Bill Nighy) represent the level-headed people of the small village who are simply glad to know that someone in the outside world cares about their plight. Yes, the main conceit is the interaction of two alien worlds, but the heart of the movie lies in the fact that they are really the same. The movie doesn't get bogged down in relationships and it only gets political when it needs to -- In short, it rarely strays far from its mission.
These stories are brought to life by the great cast. We know names like Nighy, Staunton, Considine, and West, and, as expected, they do a great job. But, it's the unknowns who steal the show here. Ben Schnetzer, who is actually American, anchors the film and he's fantastic. The energy which he feels for the cause comes through and it never feels forced. Jessica Gunning is also memorable as Sian (pronounced shan), the housewife who revels in her first opportunity to experience something outside of her small world.
Given the amount of footage shown in the extra features and the fact that most of the real-life people involved in the story are still alive, someone could have easily made a documentary about the year that a group of gay youths from London helped a town of coal miners in Wales. And while it would have delivered the facts, I don't know if it could have brought forth the triumphant joy present in Pride. Yes, some sad things happen. Yes, there is a villain. And yes, there will be tears. But, you will come away amazed by a story which holds a mirror up to society and, for once, reflects something good.
Pride assumes that we know where Bromley is on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look excellent, most notably the bold reds and greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth works well, as the actors are clearly separated from the background. The level of detail is good as well, as the image is never soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The first thing that you'll notice is how good the score sounds. The stereo effects show good separation and the surround sound effects really come to life during the dance sequence. The songs provide some subtle subwoofer effects.
The Pride Blu-ray Disc contains only two extras. "Pride A True Story" (16 minutes) is a great making-of featurette, as it brings the real-life tale to the forefront. We get archival news footage from 1984, which shows the real Mark Ashton and delivers shots of the striking miners. The piece contains interviews with the real Jonathan Blake, Mike Jackson, Sian James, and Dai Donovan, who tell their stories and talk about their portrayal in the film. The short focuses on how the two seemingly different groups and stories are drawn together. Screenwriter Stephen Beresford discusses his inspirations for the film and how he brought the story to life. The Disc contains six DELETED & EXTENDED SCENES which run about 10 minutes. There are no new subplots or characters here, as each of these simply add to scenes from the film.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long