Pride is not a complex or challenging movie. It’s not telling a story that is new, or in a new way. But it is so affectionate and thoughtfully detailed—taking care to weave in a surprising number of threads about specific trials faced by the queer community into the movie’s central story, that of a real historical moment of solidarity between a London-based group of gays & lesbians and striking Welsh miners in 1984. But it never feels to me like the movie is simply running through a checklist of instances of Thatcher-era homophobia and labor oppression, because while what happens may be quite paint-by-numbers, it is painted with such tender attention. It is a work of love, quite truly: after watching it this time, I learned that the screenplay was written by Stephen Beresford, Andrew Scott’s partner of then nine years. I think that’s where so much of the film’s feeling of warmth comes from—it was made by family, about the family who came before.
In fact, one of my favorite elements of this movie is the way it depicts the brevity of gay generations, how queer folks just a bit older than you can seem like they come from a whole different era. Andrew Scott’s character Gethin and his boyfriend Jonathan (a delightful Dominic West), just by dint of being over 25, as Gethin wryly alludes to in an early scene, are very much the group’s elders. They would have come of age in the early ‘70s, during London’s glam scene—clear from everything Jonathan ever wears or does—and now quietly, on Gethin’s part at least, run a gay bookshop together. And it’s so tenderly observed how we see that now in the ‘80s, those barely ten years younger than them already view them as mildly out-of-touch and embarrassing in that way of parents, but also a source of domestic stability (again like parents), their place serving as a harbor for “orphans from the storm.” I love that we get their distinct generational outlook on the current events of the movie—“What ever happened to Gay Lib, Jonathan?”—that sense of a continuous queer history this lends, within a movie that is itself about a very specific period of it.
And, part of what it is that creates the brevity of gay generations, particularly at work in the 1980s, is certainly not ignored. Homophobic politics that kept queer people in danger, unprotected from violent attacks on their property and their bodies, and of course the deathly shadow of AIDS that begins to crawl across the film. Pride, again, approaches these familiar story beats with care and detail, depicting several different ways HIV can impact those who are diagnosed and those who love them. Sure, particularly in instances of illness and injury this movie is a tear-jerker, a heart-string-puller, and honestly what of it? Like we haven’t been telling for ages of human history these sorts of predictable, poignant stories of people experiencing both tragedies and triumphs, and ending in hope. They have a value for the heart, and for the community. I was trying to access why I find even the sadness in this movie somehow cozy to experience, and Emily had it: Pride is like a queer folk tale.
It is also one of those movies with the kind of deeply banked cast of talent where Russell Tovey can show up for just one scene. And special shout-out to supporting actor “aerial shots of the Welsh countryside,” one of the standouts. But truly, what tips this movie over the top is Andrew Scott. No matter what he’s doing he seems to be drawn in ink that’s bleeding right through the screen into your heart. Just an indelible performance. The way Gethin’s painful personal history in Wales gently plays out consistently reduced us to wails of our own. When he takes that phone call on Christmas from Imelda Staunton? It’s just this little moment and I’m like, this is better and more moving than most cinema. If you’ve seen him as the Priest in Fleabag, you know how impossibly endearing Andrew Scott can be, and he was perfecting that here, with Dominic West in his big scarves and pink pajama pants in tow. Those two are so lovingly married in this, and it’s…honestly one of the most comforting things to watch. A queer folk tale. Can we hear it again, in front of the fire?