Pride (2014)

NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW || Seen at Rio, Dalston, London, Friday 12 September 2014 || My Rating 3 stars good


© Pathé

It’s easy to be dismissive of a certain strand of emotionally-manipulative feel-good films about small communities resisting state oppression, or maybe it’s just easy for me. I can be cynical. Pride recalls similar British films of the recent past, set in the same milieu (miners fighting for their lives and livelihood against the policies of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative party), like Brassed Off (1996) and to a certain extent The Full Monty (1998). Still, it does the whole thing every bit as well as those films did, and further frames it within the (largely metropolitan) struggles for gay rights during the same era, a struggle marked in some measure by the scourge of AIDS and the Thatcher government’s almost dismissive response to it. (I was but a young lad in the 1980s, but I still remember the bleak finality of their TV ads about AIDS.) You could argue there’s a bit of rose tinting involved in taking two narratives permeated with real pain, death and indignity, and crafting something heartwarming and feel-good out of it. Sure, there’s a nod at the beginning to the unlikeliness of the (drawn from real-life) conjunction of two struggles in the form of Mark Ashton’s Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) activist group, who collect money to help the embattled mining community. When they have their first meeting in London’s Gay’s the Word bookshop (still there, pleasingly), one man angrily denounces the way he’d been beaten up by miners when he was younger, stalking out of the shop and taking most of the rest with him. However, such unease is quickly smoothed over as Ashton (played likeably by Ben Schnetzer) finds a Welsh mining community who are willing to accept donations from the LGSM, and there follows a wary yet rather delightful rapprochement between the two very different camps, ably helped by wiser heads amongst the Welsh (including the very much not-Welsh actors Paddy Considine, Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy). And yet, whatever reservations one may have about the way things unfold, it has an irresistible charm, by turns funny, sweet and heartbreakingly poignant. It’s also an unapologetic flag-waver for the union movement, bookending the film with rousing pro-union anthems. Most surprisingly, the events of the film are all drawn from real life, so the film’s title is quite apt: it makes one proud, and not a little bit teary.


CREDITS || Director Matthew Warchus | Writer Stephen Beresford | Cinematographer Tat Radcliffe | Starring Ben Schnetzer, George MacKay, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine | Length 125 minutes

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Sunshine on Leith (2013)


NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW || Director Dexter Fletcher | Writer Stephen Greenhorn (based on his stage musical) | Cinematographer George Richmond | Starring Peter Mullan, Jane Horrocks, George MacKay, Antonia Thomas, Freya Mavor | Length 100 minutes | Seen at Cineworld Haymarket, London, Monday 7 October 2013 || My Rating 2.5 stars likeable


© Entertainment Film

I was born in Edinburgh and spent the first ten years of my life there, which means I’m left with peculiarly rose-tinted memories of the place, untouched by the kinds of behaviour essayed in films like Shallow Grave or Trainspotting (the latter of which is cutely referenced here). And much though I applaud the attempt to make this musical resonate with real working-class lives, I’m left feeling it has the same PG-rated optimistic glow of childhood memories running through it as I do.

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How I Live Now (2013)


NEW RELEASE FILM REVIEW || Director Kevin Macdonald | Writers Tony Grisoni, Jeremy Brock and Penelope Skinner | Cinematographer Franz Lustig | Starring Saoirse Ronan, George MacKay, Harley Bird | Length 101minutes | Seen at Cineworld Wood Green, London, Saturday 5 October 2013 || My Rating 3.5 stars very good


© Momentum Pictures

I like going to see films for which I have precisely no expectations nor any idea even what they’re about except in the barest terms, so long as I can be confident they are crafted by good hands. In director Kevin Macdonald and, especially, star Saoirse Ronan, I have no qualms about the talent behind the film, and therefore the film was rather a delight, an almost bucolic story of young love set against the improbable backdrop (for its lush setting) of World War III.

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