Top 30 Movies of 2014
Sometimes it’s only when you come to compile a list such as this that you realise how strong or weak a year has been in terms of cinematic releases. Looking back, I’d have to say that 2014 proved to be a pretty strong one overall for me. Admittedly, this list is by no means as exhaustive as I would have liked owing to the simple fact that I wasn’t quite able to fit in all the releases I hoped to see. Think of it therefore as the top thirty films given a UK cinematic release in 2014 which I managed to take in. That settled? Good. Then let’s begin.
Just missing out on this list are some great films which are still well worth seeking out. The Golden Dream was an unflinching and tough movie chronicling the harsh reality facing illegal immigrants shown from the point of view of several youngsters seeking a better life in America. Two very different thrillers which still deserve credit are the polished The Two Faces of January, a solid and stylish character based outing and Cold in July, a dark and seedy neo-noir. I was also a big fan of The Drop, another grimy look at America’s criminal underworld, anchored by great turns from Tom Hardy and the late James Gandolfini.
The Guest, The Double and Frank were all good watches, though the latter two movies I didn’t quite get into as much as a lot of other people seemingly did. Finally, the notable blockbuster omission from my list is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. A perfectly enjoyable Marvel movie and undoubtedly a pivotal one in the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it just didn’t keep me as gripped or prove anywhere near as enjoyable for me as the studio’s best work.
Also, technically it doesn’t qualify as it was a TV movie, but if you haven’t watched Marvellous yet, the story of a former Stoke City kit man and clown who refuses to let ‘learning difficulties’ stop him from enjoying life, then do so immediately. Easily one of the most heart-warming and dare I say it, life-affirming, pieces of drama you can hope to see. Funny, charming and in places incredibly moving, it’s one of the best things I’ve seen on TV in years.
Anyway, with disclaimers and near misses out of the way, onto the ones that actually made the cut.
Spike Jonze’s Sci-Fi rom-com is a unique and often melancholy movie which sees Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore fall in love with an artificially intelligent operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Dealing with issues of love, intimacy and relationships as well as the role that technology plays in our lives, the film is a fascinating and tender story anchored by two sterling central performances. Phoenix is the vulnerable human face of the movie, but Johansson’s incredibly emotive voicework cannot be understated.
Locke is an exceptionally low-fi movie which charts a single car ride taken by Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), a man with a seemingly perfect life which is rocked by a series of phone calls he receives on his journey. To say any more would be to ruin the film’s gripping development but, needless to say, beneath the veneer there are regrets and mistakes which Ivan must now face. The film hinges on Hardy’s performance and he absolutely knocks it out of the park. To make such a stark movie as this so enthralling is a big task and he rises to the challenge superbly, creating a strong yet flawed character whose emotional journey sucks you in and demands your attention.
28/ Under the Skin:
This enigmatic Sci-Fi thriller by director Jonathan Glazer is a low-key but incredibly unnerving tale which lingers with you long after you’ve finished watching. Scarlett Johansson stars as an alien being who seduces men on the streets of Glasgow before luring them back to her apartment, for what end I shan’t reveal here. It’s definitely a film to go into knowing as little as possible, though truth be told, even by its end you will find yourself puzzling over what you just saw unfold. It’s tense, disturbing and incredibly haunting. The events which occur are surreal and striking, and while the end result is a bit of a head-scratcher, you can’t help but be impressed by the incredibly immersive mood of the piece.
27/ Starred Up:
Starred Up is a brutally hard hitting and increasingly tense prison drama from director David Mackenzie. The film’s title refers to the term for when a young offender is moved prematurely up to an adult prison, as is the case here for Jack O’Connell’s Eric. His is a raw and vicious central character, an angry young man thrown squarely into the lion’s den. Far from being a simple tale of ultra-violence and survival however, this is a story focusing on redemption of sorts for Eric, a boy who may never be fit for society, but who can perhaps learn to control the anger inside him. His attempts are hampered by the presence of his father in the same jail, played with typical menace and rage by Ben Mendelsohn (an actor who has almost cornered the market in terrifying angry bastards). It really is unwavering in its ferocity, with the climax proving almost unbearably tense, but this only adds to the film’s gripping nature.
26/ 22 Jump Street:
The first Jump Street movie was a pleasant surprise in itself, but this sequel was arguably even more so given the rule of diminishing returns that usually applies to comedy sequels. There are some clever self-referential gags peppered throughout, as well as plenty of daft and silly moments which only add to the charm. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have great chemistry and it’s the relationship between their two characters which is really at the films heart. I laughed solidly throughout and it remains far ahead of any of the year’s other mainstream R-rated comedies.
25/ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:
One of the summer’s finest action blockbusters and an intriguing development upon the wonderful Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Considerably darker than its predecessor, perhaps to be expected given it takes place after the deadly virus glimpsed at the end of that film nearly wiped out mankind, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is every bit as exciting and arguably even more impressive visually. The ongoing tensions between the human survivors and apes are obviously one key facet of the story, but the issues of law and order in a broken society also resonate strongly. The effects are superb, with the motion capture work of Andy Serkis and co. really bringing Cesar and the apes to life. Let’s not forget also, there was an ape on horseback with duel machine guns. I repeat, ape, horseback, machine guns. Excellent.
24/ Next Goal Wins:
Next Goal Wins is a wonderful documentary following the beleaguered national football team of American Samoa in the aftermath of their record breaking 31-0 loss to Australia. Regardless of your opinions about modern football, it is impossible to watch this charming story and not have your spirit raised by its end. The arrival of a new coach gives the team a welcome boost and the prime focus of the story sees them preparing for and then taking part in the preliminary qualifying competition for the 2014 World Cup. For those of you who are left cold by the cynicism off the modern corporate driven game, this is the perfect antidote. Just watch it and allow yourself to get swept up in the sporting drama.
23/ The Edge of Tomorrow:
Seemingly now known as ‘Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow’, this Sci-Fi blockbuster didn’t exactly set the box office alight, but for me it was one of the most exciting and innovative blockbusters of the year. The central conceit is that aliens are attacking earth and even America’s military might is failing to deal with the threat as they launch a dangerous counter-offensive. In the midst of this onslaught, Tom Cruise’s army officer gets stuck in some sort of time loop whereby every time he dies; he awakens on the eve of battle and must face the same perilous fight over again. Into the mix comes Emily Blunt’s Special Forces operative who begins to train Cruise in the hope he can turn the tide on the aliens with each incremental encounter. The premise holds together extremely well and it doesn’t suffer as many time-travel based blockbusters do from necessitating a bit of a cop out ending. It’s riveting blockbuster entertainment in which story and spectacle both play an important part.
22/ X-Men: Days of Future Past:
It was always going to be a challenge to intertwine both the original X-Men movie cast and the rebooted First Class one, but Bryan Singer and co. pulled it off brilliantly. The duel storylines link together perfectly and the ensemble cast does likewise. The bulk of the action takes place in the 1970s with James McAvoy’s troubled young Professor X , Michael Fassbender’s powerful Magento, Jennifer Lawrence’s increasingly dangerous Mystique and Hugh Jackman’s kick-ass Wolverine all involved in an attempt to change the course of history in order to stop the world’s destruction in the future. The special effects and set pieces are spectacular throughout with one slow-motion encounter involving Quicksilver and a barrage of bullets being a particular highlight. It’s a tremendous action adventure movie, filled with great performances that ensure you really become invested in these characters and their struggle.
21/ Gone Girl:
David Fincher’s adaptation of the popular novel by Gillian Flynn (who also wrote the screenplay for the movie), is a darkly compelling psychological thriller driven by two brilliant central performances from Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike and buoyed by the director’s typically eye-catching style. Affleck stars as Nick Dunne, a man who comes under police and media scrutiny when his wife Amy goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. Their seemingly blissful marriage is soon revealed to be anything but and then, as the truth begins to unravel and traditional movie whodunit tropes are dramatically abandoned, you are not sure at all who you can trust. To say anything more would ruin the film’s impact but it’s a powerful glimpse behind the tranquillity of suburban America that burrows under your skin and stays with you.
20/ Inside Llewyn Davis:
A quintessentially Coen Brothers movie in which they present a portrait of a struggling 60s folk singer in a deeply melancholy comedy drama. The ongoing exasperations and knockbacks suffered by Oscar Issac’s titular singer ensures the whole affair is tinged with a distinctly bittersweet tone. Isaac himself is sensational in the lead role, at the same time captivating, sympathetic and yet undeniably frustrating. There’s the typical collection of memorable supporting characters, and the exquisite soundtrack, produced by the legendary T-Bone Burnett, is one of the year’s best. The combination of humour and sadness that permeates through the movie may not be suited to all, but fans of the Coen’s work can’t really go far wrong here. While perhaps darker than usual, it’s still them at their offbeat, character driven best.
I was a massive fan of writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s previous offering The Guard, and while Calvary is a powerful and unforgettable movie in itself, it is a million miles away from the levity of its predecessor. Brendan Gleeson again stars, here playing Father James, a village priest who at the film’s outset is told by an unseen parishioner who was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest as a young man, that he will kill Father James on the following Sunday. In the build up to that fateful day, Father James both comforts his own visiting daughter and meets with the often eccentric members of his parish as he tries to do his godly work as normal. Tackling issues of sin, abuse, faith and forgiveness, this is a film dealing with weighty subject matter and it doesn’t flinch from displaying the emotional scars befalling its characters. Gleeson is truly exceptional here and I’d argue that this is up there with his very best work as Father James’ faith and spirit is tested as he awaits the fateful Sunday.
18/ Blue Ruin:
A grim and affecting revenge thriller which packs an incredible punch. As with several other movies already mentioned such as Under the Skin and Gone Girl, this is a movie which festers in your mind long after watching. It’s haunting and powerful ending in particular really hits hard. Its central character Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) is introduced to us as a broken man, a vagrant living out of his car and eating out of dumpsters, who upon finding out a criminal who murdered his parents is being released early from prison returns to his childhood town. Once there, his revenge mission goes anything but smooth. The tense atmosphere is ramped up as the movie plays out, the body count and blood likewise. There’s a definite pulpy sensibility to the whole affair, with a streak of macabre humour to be found in Dwight’s increasingly fraught and desperate actions.
17/ Only Lovers Left Alive:
Jim Jarmusch’s vampire romance is a visually striking, gloom-laden love story told in his typically low-fi manner. The plot may be relatively thin, but then this is a movie which is all about mood and tone. The typical traits of vampire movies, vicious bloodsuckers preying on humans, are shoved to the background and instead the two central vampires are deeply sympathetic lovers just trying to see out eternity in relative peace. Tom Hiddlestone and Tilda Swinton are both captivating as the central couple, Adam and Eve, emanating effortless bohemian cool. When their peace is shattered by the arrival of Eve’s unstable sister, it forces them out of their tranquil hibernation. The script has plenty of dry wit and the soundtrack is also first class to boot. It may prove a little slow for some, but for me it’s the kind of movie you can just sit back and get lost in for its entire run time. The climactic sequence is a wonderful pay-off that is comfortably one of my favourite scenes of the year.
16/ The Grand Budapest Hotel:
Wes Anderson’s latest offering was another deliriously entertaining entry in his impressive back catalogue, delivering fun, warmth, visually stunning compositions and plenty of Anderson brand eccentricities. The story follows one Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) , a renowned concierge at the titular hotel who along with his trusty companion Zero (Tony Revolori) becomes embroiled in a crime caper involving a deceased wealthy pensioner, her grasping family and a priceless painting. As with all Anderson movies, the film is exquisitely designed and possesses a stellar ensemble cast that includes Ed Norton, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray and Harvey Keitel to name but a few. It’s great screwball fun from start to finish with the cast all on top form which each one adding a little something to the unfolding story.
15/ St Vincent:
At first glance, a film starring Bill Murray as a curmudgeonly misanthrope becoming a father figure to a lonely boy who is bullied at school seems like it’s going to be very much a by-the-numbers comedy drama. Now while the end result is admittedly not a million miles away from preconceptions, it still delivers far more warmth, tenderness and fun than I dared hope. Murray’s Vincent is your typical schlubby movie grouch; he drinks, he owes money to bad sorts, he gambles and has a close relationship with a prostitute (Naomi Watts). However when he begins to spend time with young Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), we do begin to slowly see another side of him and realise there’s more than meets the eye. A scene towards the end at Oliver’s school assembly particularly brought a lump to the throat and was a glorious heart-warming moment. Yes it’s slushy in parts and often sentimental, but with Murray doing what he does so well, making you root for a largely unlikeable character. It’s a winning formula that I fell for completely.
14/ 12 Years a Slave:
Steve McQueen’s historical drama chronicles the real life story of Solomon Northup, an African American man born free only to be kidnapped and sold into slavery for 12 long years before gaining his freedom. Certain stories are always going to be difficult to watch, and while this movie is undoubtedly a tough watch in places, it is also an extremely important and vital one. This is a brutally honest story of something that really happened, displaying the horrific reality of slavery like few other films have managed. The film is anchored by an outstanding trio of performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o and Michael Fassbender. Ejiofor’s heart-breaking turn combines desperation and dignity to incredibly moving effect, and Fassbender’s sadistic plantation owner is a truly terrifying but all too human monster. It’s a powerful drama that possesses scenes of both visually beauty and equally unflinching horror.
Jake Gyllenhaal has never been as unnerving as he is in this film. He plays Lou Bloom, a strange but driven man who finds work as a crime journalist in LA, capturing the often horrific aftermaths of crime scenes and then selling them to a local news channel. Lou is a startling character, immoral, determined and completely ruthless. The length he will go to in order to get the footage he needs begins to seemingly know no limit. This is very much Gyllenhaal’s film and he is truly exceptional as Bloom, perfectly capturing the unhinged creepiness of the character. Director Dan Gilroy delivers a scuzzy neon-soaked thriller filled with grimy streets and shady characters, and he manages to work touches of the horror genre into the movie’s tone as the suspense builds and we wonder how far Lou will go.
Ok so this is technically cheating as this movie has not actually had a UK cinema release yet, however it’s been released elsewhere in 2014 and besides, screw you, it’s my list. Word had begun to spread about this movie ever since it was released in director’s Bong Joon Ho’s native South Korea and with good reason. It’s a heady mix of sci-fi fantasy based upon an obscure French graphic novel. The film is set in a desolate future where a failed global warming experiment has killed off most of the life on the planet. The survivors live aboard a gargantuan train powered by a perpetual motion engine on which they are rigidly split along class lines. Eventually though, the lower classes are driven to revolt and led by Chris Evans’ Curtis, they attempt to overthrow their masters by fighting their way through the train. There are numerous intriguing ideas packed into this dystopian nightmare as twists, turns and shocking developments continue to hit hard and fast. It’s undeniably over-the-top in places, but for me that only adds to the fun. Violent and stylish, it truly is a fascinatingly brilliant oddity that needs to be seen in order to fully appreciate.
David Ayer’s World War Two effort was a grim and vicious ‘horrors of war’ movie which unashamedly throws you right into the heart of darkness. The film follows a war-weary tank crew led by Brad Pitt’s enigmatic Wardaddy as they venture into Nazi occupied territory as part of the allies final push. This crew of battle hardened men have been battered by the conflict and left as brave yet jaded shells of their former selves. Into this melee comes Logan Lerman’s rookie soldier, Norman. The terror facing these tank crews is laid bare to see, not only the claustrophobic nature of life inside the cramped machine, but the sheer horror of tank warfare once the enemy is engaged. These soldiers are far from perfect; they are flawed and occasionally vengeful men who are rocked by the realities of war. The tension is palpable throughout and Ayer does a sterling job of thrusting us into the battle sequences, with Pitt, Lerman and the rest of the cast (including an incredibly game Shia Labeouf) all nailing their roles perfectly. It’s a rugged and violent war movie which emphatically hammered home its ‘war is hell’ message.
10/ We are the best!:
This Swedish drama about three young girls in 1980s Stockholm who decide to form a punk band as an outlet for their rebellious and non-conformist ways is a wonderful little gem that deserves to be sought out by anyone who hasn’t yet seen it. The three young leads are filled with both the optimistic effervescent spirit of youth as well being affected by the awkwardness of adolescence. The two best pals Klara and Bobo don’t let a lack of any prior musical talent get in their way and refuse to be pigeonholed by the adults and male bands they come into contact with. It’s impossible to watch and not immediately be won over by the girls’ passion and exuberance. A film as much about young friendship as it is non-conformity, it’s a refreshingly exhilarating blast with one of the most satisfying endings of the year.
9/ The LEGO Movie:
Few films can match The LEGO Movie for sheer good-hearted fun. From the outset it’s both hilarious and imaginative, and far wittier and visually appealing than any other animated offering this year. I think, like most people, I had assumed this would just be a bright and breezy kids movie, but as cliché as it sounds, there really is something in here for everybody. It’s a feel good movie that revels in its absurdity and leaves you with a goofy grin on your face for hours. Chris Pratt voices our central hero, Emmett, an apparently ordinary working Joe whose joy of life is as unwavering as his belief in following the rules. When he is perhaps mistakenly identified as an exceptional being that can help save the world, its sets us off on a breakneck adventure that takes in pirates, Batman and Liam Neeson as the ultimate good cop/bad cop. Now if only I could get ‘Everything is Awesome’ out of my head.
Christopher Nolan’s space epic may not be without its flaws, but it still won me over completely with its sheer ambition, audacity and outstanding visuals. Certainly, having seen it on IMAX, it has to be considered a spectacular cinematic event, from that opening deafening flying sequence, right through to the space and time travel that follows. Nolan has never been one to talk down to his audience, he expects a little concentration and effort on their behalf, and while the ideas presented here are relatively scientifically complex, they are explained in a coherent manner that everyone can easily understand. The story does not so much dip its toe into sentimentality as it does a full on swan dive into it, but it never detracts from the entertainment on offer. McConaughey does sterling work as Cooper, but for me the star performer of the bunch was Jessica Chastain as Murph. To go much more into plot nuances and performances may risk unwelcome spoilers so I’ll leave it at that for now. Bold, spectacular and full of heart, it may just fall short of being a fully blown masterpiece, but it’s still one of the most enthralling sci-fi epics in recent years.
7/ The Imitation Game:
A wonderfully acted drama here focusing on mathematician and war hero Alan Turing. For anyone not aware of Turing’s story, he was a socially awkward genius who was recruited by the British Government during World War Two to help crack the seemingly impossible ENIGMA codes of the Germans. He and his team eventually managed this feat, shortening the war considerably and saving untold lives. However, Turing was also a closet homosexual and he was eventually arrested and charged on these grounds. Benedict Cumberbatch gives his greatest turn on the big screen yet, capturing the passion and brilliance of a man whose story should never be forgotten. Not only is the drama surrounding the codebreaking itself excellently handled, with scenes of whirring cogs and spluttering machines rarely more thrilling, but so too are the moral issues presented by the story as a whole. The haunting scene where the team realise how the cracked code must actually be used sparingly is magnificently handled, but perhaps the most shocking element of proceedings is the treatment of Turing (and indeed thousands like him) by his own government. The film’s climax delivers a powerful and timely reminder that it was not so long ago that many in society held such awful opinions and treated people so poorly. It’s captivating and tense, and your sympathies are firmly behind Turing as he defiantly stands by his machine and puts his heart and soul into aiding the war effort. An emotive thriller, both inspiring and tragic in equal measure.
6/ The Raid 2:
I was a huge fan of Gareth Evans’ original The Raid, and while this sequel doesn’t quite meet those dizzy heights, it’s still an outstanding blood-soaked adrenaline rush of a movie. Iko Uwais’ Rama has survived the hell of the first film only to be plunged into a criminal underworld that sees him spend time in prison and go undercover in a vicious criminal gang. While the story itself is far more sprawling in scope than its predecessor, the action set pieces and fight sequences are still breathtakingly good. There’s Rama’s fight with two master assassins in a cramped hallway, the thrilling car chase along packed city streets and of course the spectacular kitchen showdown between Rama and the chief henchman. These are just a few of the moments where you are pinned back in your seat, part wincing at the bone-crunching brutality and yet utterly transfixed as director and star take the violence to another level. These sequences are woven neatly into the wider plot though and feel like a natural part of the story that we see unfolding. Exquisitely over the top carnage has rarely been this much fun.
5/ Dallas Buyers Club:
In his finest performance yet, Matthew McConaughey plays Texan good ol’ boy Ron Woodroof, a straight man diagnosed with HIV in 1985 and given just 30 days to live. Finding himself shunned by former friends and rendered an outcast by a society still uneasy with the disease and lacking understanding as to what it truly was, he decides to circumvent the law and seek alternative treatment elsewhere in order to further his life expectancy. Woodroof finds himself allied with fellow social outcasts including Jared Leto’s transgender Rayon. The film is a combination of people fighting against the odds, as well as developing greater understanding and compassion. McConaughey’s character is an undoubted bigot at the outset, but as the film progresses and his plight becomes more desperate, we also see him learn to accept others as they are. He and Leto were fully deserving of their Oscar wins as both of them are truly exceptional in this film. Both men are completely absorbed into their characters, their dignity in adversity being beautifully conveyed. It’s a moving and powerful drama that is at its core about a burning desire to live.
4/ The Wolf of Wall Street:
I know not everyone was as enamoured with Scorsese’s darkly comic tale of debauchery and Wall Street excess, but personally I found it incredibly entertaining immoral fun. The depravity and sleaze comes thick and fast as Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort rises to the top of the Wall Street food chain. The film is essentially the rise and fall of Belfort, but where it differs from similar standard Hollywood pictures is that there is not real comeuppance for its villain or justice for those he wronged. For many this was a major flaw in Scorsese’s film but for me it was simply the director presenting the realities of what happened. This was a charismatic and unscrupulous man who got rich by fleecing other people and whose punishment far from fitted the crime but, that’s how it was. He and DiCaprio simply present this tale of excess to you and let you reach your own conclusions. If you come away from this film thinking Belfort is someone to be idolised, you are most definitely missing the point. There’s a host of great supporting performances, with Jonah Hill’s Donnie Azoff standing out as Belfort’s unconventional right-hand man. Stylishly made and with a wonderfully funny script, this is cinematic decadence that gleefully embraces its own over-the-top story.
3/ Guardians of the Galaxy:
Simply put, Guardians of the Galaxy was comfortably the most entertaining and fun blockbuster of the year. A proper space adventure that had me suckered in from the early scenes of Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill boogying his way through a remote cave to the sounds of Redbone’s ‘Come and Get Your Love’. This was always the unknown quantity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the wildcard that few of us knew what to expect from. Perhaps in a way this gave the filmmakers more freedom as there was little or no pressure to adhere to any preconceptions of the characters. Pratt is infinitely charismatic in the lead role, a proper loveable rogue in the classic Han Solo vein. Pratt is ably backed up by a storming cast of characters, with Bradley Cooper’s voice performance as Rocket, Dave Bautista’s surprisingly good turn as Drax and Michael Rooker’s typically bullish turn as Yondu all standing out. The film succeeds thanks to its focus on never letting the energy level drop and maintaining a sense of humour throughout. This is a film that’s meant to be exuberant and fun and taps directly into that Indiana Jones / Star Wars sense of B-Movie adventure. The incorporation of 60s and 70s pop songs into the soundtrack was a masterstroke with these songs providing both Peter Quill with a link to his life on earth, plus reminding us that despite being millions of light years away, this is a story very much connected to events back on our world. The planned sequel cannot come soon enough.
Richard Linklater’s movie has adorned many of this year’s best-of lists and quite rightly so. A remarkable feat of cinema that is far more than just a novelty or a gimmick. The film was shot over twelve years with the director reuniting his cast every twelve months in order to film another year in the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane). As a result what we see is a boy literally growing up before our eyes, complete with all the tumultuous moments encountered in adolescence. Not only do we see Mason grow before our eyes though, we also see the changing lives of his divorced parents played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, two individuals whose life choices inevitably impact on our young lead. It’s an audacious piece of filmmaking for sure, with Linklater choosing to use seemingly small moments from a boy’s life in order to demonstrate how they shape his mindset as he approaches adulthood. A warm and intimate glimpse into one family’s life that is increasingly poignant as the slow-burning drama unfolds. It is a film that does at times meander, but if you are as enthralled and invested in the story concocted on screen as I was, then it is wonderful to see how these minor moments combine together to impact on these character’s lives. The ‘coming-of-age’ movie has seen its bar raised in empathic style.
Granted, as a leftie with a strong dislike of Thatcher and a robust belief in social equality, this British comedy drama was always going to appeal to me fairly strongly. The finished article though was better than I had even hoped for though; inspiring, impassioned and also incredibly good fun. Inspired by a true story, the plot sees a group of London based gay and lesbian activists deciding to raise money to support the striking miners during Thatcher’s 1980s Britain, seeing them as fellow outsides being marginalised and stepped on by the government. Initially rejected by the Union, who didn’t wish to be associated with the group, they travel to a remote welsh village to make a donation in person. They are met with a lukewarm reception at first but a bond soon forms between the two groups as the sentiment that united strength is stronger comes to the fore. It is schmaltzy and formulaic in parts, but the good-natured and heart-warming plot is never dented because of it. The cast is top draw with Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Dominic West, Paddy Considine, Joe Gilgun and Ben Schnetzer all giving sterling performances amongst many others. It is a feel-good comedy, with a terrific script and emotional beats that pluck the heartstrings and stir the spirt as we go, but there is also a powerful message in Pride not only about the power of solidarity, but also the need for greater compassion and acceptance. By the time Billy Bragg’s ‘There’s Power in the Union’ plays at the climax, it’s hard not to be swept up by a sense of empowerment and a belief in unity as a force for change.