There’s a kind of movie – not a genre, really, but a subset of film – referred to as “feel-good.” Feel-good movies are those that leave the audience feeling buoyant as the credits roll; these often true, usually inspirational, and typically tear-jerking pictures are catnip for viewers because they make us feel like we’re better people for having made the trip to the theater, or to Redbox or to the Netflix queue. Feel-good movies are rarely challenging because they’re designed to placate, entrance, and uplift: The King’s Speech is a prime example. That’s why you can watch a feel-good movie with almost anyone without worrying about whether he or she will like it or not.
Queer movies are, generally, the exact opposite. Movies dealing with sexual minorities are often downers, dealing with the AIDS epidemic, the painful struggle of coming out, rejection by society and unrequited love. Movies like Brokeback Mountain and Blue is the Warmest Color have their moments of rapturously happy romance, but overall, are rather bleak and depressing. So Matthew Warchus’s Pride is a sort of miracle, and – in my estimation – the most important LGBTQ movie in a banner year for queer cinema. Warchus has crafted what might be considered the first feel-good queer movie, and my, it feels so good.
Pride, featuring a screenplay by Stephen Beresford, is an unbelievable true story about a group of gays and lesbians who begin collecting money to support the 1984 miners’ strike in the UK. It’s a footnote of that vexing historical event, one that has barely been remembered or discussed in the years since, but Beresford unearthed the story and has crafted a brilliant script, bringing history to vivid life under Warchus’s lovely direction.
Pride has all the elements of a typical feel-good movie. It’s a true story, a bit of forgotten history, full of memorable characters. There’s as much humor as heart, and the lows pass quickly in a (gay pride) parade of highs. As is common in these kinds of movies, two differing sides come together on common ground, uniting in the face of a common foe: Margaret Thatcher’s government. By the end, viewers will likely have cried a gallon or two of tears; no movie this year has made me bawl more openly, or more happily.
We get plenty of feel-good movies every year, yet few manage to rise above blatant manipulation to say anything worth saying, but with the expanse of queer cinema, familiar genres and old tropes take on a sheen of novelty. It’s a thrill to see a film that tugs at heartstrings with this subject matter. Viewers will likely relate to the rural mining community that receives LGSM’s (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) support, but they’ll also find parts of themselves in the gays and lesbians, too, just as they saw themselves in stuttering royalty in Tom Hooper’s Best Picture winner.
Pride stands out from its fellow crowd-pleasers by not shying away from weightier subject matter. The spectrum of queer experience is here, with one character struggling to come out of the closet, another fearful of trying to reconcile with his mother, and another anxious about being diagnosed with AIDS. These are issues that are difficult to work around, and issues that shouldn’t be ignored; they’re real day-to-day fears and woes that we face, but that doesn’t mean that every cinematic presentation of them needs to be a depressing slog. Pride is proof that there’s a lot for sexual minorities to feel good about, and a lot to be proud of.