Based on a true story, this crowd-pleasing comedy-drama is such a joy to watch that it wears our faces out with all the smiling, laughing, crying and cheering. Skilfully written and directed, and sharply well played by an ace cast, this is a story that can't help but get under the skin. Its twists and turns are genuinely jaw-dropping, and the character interaction sparks with all kinds of issues that feel hugely resonant, even though the events depicted took place 30 years ago. In other words, this is a strong candidate for film of the year.
It's set in 1984 London, where 20-year-old Joe (George MacKay) sneaks out of his parents' home to attend the gay pride festivities. When he meets a group of lesbian and gay activists (including Ben Schnetzer, Andrew Scott and Dominic West), he feels like he has found his own place in the world. Their cause is to aid striking miners, because they understand how it feels to be abused by the police and oppressed by their own government. But of course Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners finds it difficult to get a group to accept their assistance. Eventually, they discover a group of strike supporters in the small Welsh village of Dulais who are willing to partner with them, so they travel to Wales to meet them (including Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine and Jessica Gunning), sparking a major culture clash.
Cleverly, the script allows each character in the story to take his or her own personal journey, and the variety of plot-threads weave together beautifully to be powerfully involving. This also allows the filmmakers to explore a wide range of issues in both communities. The gays are facing family rejection, public harassment and the dawn of the Aids epidemic, while the miners are grappling with deep-seated prejudices while watching their lives eviscerated by Thatcher's systematic plan to crush the unions. All of this gives the cast a lot of meat to chew on, and yet the film's brightly anarchic pacing and energetic period touches keep it from ever feeling preachy.
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