1984, the year George Orwell wrote about, and rather than being oppressed by a ruthless dictator Britain is being run by Margret Thatcher (depending upon your political views those can be remarkably similar systems of government). The miners are on strike and that leads to a remarkable true story that has inspired a truly remarkable film.
When a group of gay activists offer support to a small and suffering Welsh village the two groups strike up an unlikely alliance that will have consequences for many. And let me just say straight away, this could well be my favourite film of the year so far. It’s truly brilliant and offers everything you could expect and more.
So let’s start with the cast. It’s brilliant. Oh, you want more, well with Bill Nigh as the lead the film lacks no amount of dramatic depth from its star, there’s a believable shyness to him. But there are some great portrayals of memorable characters alongside him, such as the old fashioned yet understanding Hefina Headon played by Imelda Staunton. Admittedly there is the feeling of not enough screen time to go around but it’s very easy to ignore, and I can tell you now that is my only complaint. Dominic West, Paddy Constantine, George MacKay… the list of Great British talent goes on and they all captivate and inspire you as you watch. I would say that one actor in particular manages to steal all of their scenes, but there are so many great performances that when two or more really good ones meet it’s impossible to decide.
The direction and tone of the film really suits the plot as well. The contrast between the two groups is played up to hilarious levels at times and subtle imagery as well. The juxtaposition is wonderful to behold and only emphasises the sweetness of their relationship as the groups form an alliance and bond. Everything from the entire demeanour with which they act to small visual contrasts is used to make the difference obvious, and it works well enough to increase the drama and comedy throughout the film.
But as well as using the difference the film draws the attention to how similar the groups are. Both were oppressed at the time, facing an unsympathetic world and constantly mocked by tabloids. It helps to make this alliance believable, sometimes even true stories are made to feel false on the big screen. But here it all feels like a documentary lifted straight from the era, with some added laughs and character attention added in, and it all makes it brilliant.
There are a lot of elements in this film that aren’t celebrated as much as they should be in British culture. Our constant strive for change when it is needed, the outspoken nature of those who can be subjugated, and unlikely friendships. The themes run deep such as political movements, community spirit, uplifting nature. The film perfectly captures the essence of the film by re-creating the attitude felt by many different people, the look and feel of this rather less glamorous yet still irresistible side of the eighties.
The sexual honesty shared by all of the main characters could be called the most enjoyable thing, but then again, it is just the top of a very big pile. If you like the Full Monty or Brassed Off, films that show the current social base being torn down in a humorous and heartfelt way, then I can find no reason for you not to love this film. It’s a complete joy and a crowd pleaser in every sense of the word.