What a fantastic movie – and guess what? The heroes don’t carry guns!
When it ventures into the realm of social history and comment, cinema can easily become tendentious to the point of preachiness, but director Matthew Warchus and writer Stephen Beresford have avoided that pitfall by treating a serious issue with equal parts earnestness and ebullience, gravity and humour.
The 1984 miners’ strike in Britain was a long and bitter struggle between labour and doctrine-driven Thatcherism.
A cohort of activist gays and lesbians in London saw a connection between their pariah status and that of the downtrodden miners. Led by Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), they mobilised to form a fund-raising support group for the families of Onllwyn in Wales.
Because their overture of comradeship was not universally accepted by a community in which homosexuality was still considered a perversion, the story explores the ways in which opposites can attract and co-operate for the betterment of all.
Ordinarily, the themes addressed here are dealt with in sombre colours, dour soundtracks and joyless set pieces. But this is irresistibly upbeat. The unforeseen emergence of AIDS is a grim backdrop, but there is a lot of love at play as bridges are built and unlikely allies enriched by immersion in the other’s natural environment.
We are reminded that, if our common humanity is encouraged to fulfil its potential for generosity, there IS such a thing as society.
A wonderful cast – Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton abandon their usual self-parody – with the wives and mothers of Onllwyn nearly stealing the show as they are caught up in the belated bloom of feisty feminism in the blokey valleys.
If you have reached the point of utter despair with our government of slime-coated, blue-tied, fork-tongued troglodytes, as they abase themselves before the overdogs of wealth and privilege while simultaneously shafting anybody who does not fit into their narrow, plutocratic, white world, then take in this movie as a tonic.
It’s galvanising, heart-swelling and absolutely true in everything it says.
See it, live it.
~ John Campbell