Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom, 2014. Pathe, BBC Films, Proud Films, British Film Institute, Canal+, Cine+, Calamity Films. Screenplay by Stephen Beresford. Cinematography by Tat Radcliffe. Produced by David Livingstone. Music by Christopher Nightingale. Production Design by Simon Bowles. Costume Design by Charlotte Walter. Film Editing by Melanie Oliver. Dorian Awards 2014. Golden Globe Awards 2014. Toronto International Film Festival 2014.
Gay and lesbian activists in 1984 London take to the streets on Pride Day despite the head-shaking and catcalling from observers, soon joined by young George MacKay as a twenty year-old kid who is just coming into an understand of his own sexuality. Within minutes he finds himself thrust into the centre of dedicated crusaders for freedom, with the unofficial but natural leader of the group (Ben Schnetzer) informing his friends that they should pitch in a hand for the ongoing Miner’s Strike that was the centre of the UK’s headlines that year. The miners were fighting the same conservative oppression of the Thatcher era that was disrupting and sometimes destroying the lives of gays and lesbians on a regular basis, and oppressed people must all stick together, so the few boys and one girl collect coins in buckets outside their book-shop headquarters. When they head to a tiny village in Wales to meet the people they are fundraising for, the reception is muddled to say the least: most of the townspeople want nothing to do with them, but how can they turn them away when the newly named Lesbians And Gays Support The Miners (or LGSM) have raised more money than any other support group? What follows is proof that The Full Monty is now truly a genre of British filmmaking, but don’t think that means it doesn’t have terrific surprises in store; even with a slightly rambling narrative and a few too many heartstring-plucking montages, this is a warm, witty and wholly inspiring film about characters who manage to be compelling and loveable very quickly. They are, in fact, heroes, people who turn their desire to care into something meaningful and concrete, but the wise direction never lets them become stodgy saint figures either (director Matthew Warchus even lets a spontaneous performance of a Welsh hymn feel magically new). There are enough wonderfully underplayed moments of sentiment (try not to weep when Imelda Staunton wishes Andrew Scott a Merry Christmas in Welsh) to wholly forgive the times it goes for contrived manipulation, while the performances are solid from the established leads (which also include Bill Nighy and Paddy Considine) to the fresher faces (Schnetzer and a stunningly charismatic Jessica Gunning).