Of all the the gin joint, in all the towns, in all the world, we walked into The Lexi and fell in love with the topsy-turvy alice-in-wonderland-esq decor and vibe. Unlike the highly popular, totally London looking Picturehouse and Everyman cinema chains, It feels less self-consciously cool and more like a hippy drop-in centre with an interesting book corner, art nailed all over the walls, friendly people milling about, and no seat reservation policy – you sit wherever you can (old school eh). It felt like a cinema for film lovers, old film posters scattered down the corridor, and leaflets of upcoming events emphasising the community vibe. The cinema is the worlds “first social enterprise independent boutique digital cinema” – the majority of it’s staff are volunteers and it donates 100% of it’s profits to different charities depending on the film. In this case it was to the survivors of last year’s mining disaster in Soma. The Lexi says “We like to think we’re improving the quality of life for everyone in our little corner of northwest London and at the same time making a difference to the quality of life for a very different community on the other side of the world.” – so not only can you go an see a great film, with other people who love great films, but you can feel really good about it too!
LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) is the eclectic activist group (a bunch of hilarious oddballs) that catalyses the friendship between gay rights fighters and striking miners, set against Thatcher’s Britain in 1984, and in particular in a tiny Welsh mining village.
I was a miner
I was a docker
I was a railway man
Between the wars
I raised a family
In times of austerity
With sweat at the foundry
Between the wars
The way Matthew Warchus delivers the concept of finding mutual support in the most unlikely of places – the most British of all topics – specifically in the plight of the miners’ strike and the gay and lesbian movement in the 1980s, comes lovingly through the warm sorrowful intimacy between characters and, of course, pitch perfect dry humour. Expect racey, side-aching laughs throughout at times when you’ve barely stemmed the flow of your tears. Each character’s performance was nuanced and subtle: everyone was able to portray a certain element of torture as well as roaring comedy. It was about love and mutual respect. It tried to show you that no matter the obstacle, we should try and face them together, something which can still resonate today.
Ye olde Quint Brit tactic of dividing and conquering its social, cultural and racial groups was very apparent in the story, written by Stephen Beresford, and small nuggets of down-to-earth conversation were tinged with the prevailing reality of the air of hopelessness that faced those groups deemed outside of the ‘acceptable’ British circles that was so obvious in the 1980s (not to mention our own air of hopelessness as viewers, knowing the outcome of the miners’ strike that’s pending).
The soundtrack is littered with provocative gems of the time such as Billy Bragg’s ‘Power In The Union’ and Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Relax’, and the disco element of the film, flamboyantly epitomised in Dominic West’s character Jonathan who manages to get a whole Welsh village (untypable name) boogying, gives the film the electric momentum that evokes the right sort of nostalgia for the birth era of funk and punk in the UK.
The actor relations are the most enjoyable thing about this film, in a classically Brit fashion, and those to note:
Imelda Staunton: of course she gets first mention. ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS.
Bill Nighy: a pillar of dry believability. His best performance.
Dominic West: fabulous disco queen and sexy as hell.
Andrew Scott: heartbreaking from the permanent ghost of his character’s past imprinted on his face throughout.
It felt right to see this film at the Lexi, as earlier in the week Gethin Roberts, one of the original LGSM fundraisers portrayed by Andrew Scott in the film, was there to give an introduction to the film to eager audiences (sadly the tickets had all sold out to this viewing). Of all the cinemas thus far sampled by GOF, we take particular Pride in having seen this beautiful, hilarious, heart breaking British modern classic at the Lexi, because it’s obvious the establishment cares a great deal for the art it promotes, and believes in the transformative power of film as more than just numb entertainment.
The Final Word: This’ll make you proud to be British (for once)