Twenty years too late

Submitted by Anon on 4 March, 2005 - 2:32

Mick Duncan reviews "Faith", BBC1, 28 February

The Tory Party complained about William Ivory’s Faith, claiming it painted Margaret Thatcher in a bad light.

Ivory is a talented writer, and this feature length drama of love and betrayal, set in an anonymous Yorkshire town during the miners’ strike, certainly had its moments. But painting Thatcher in a bad light?

It would take the dramatic talent of Shakespeare coupled with a god-given gift for abuse equivalent to that of Hunter S Thompson to achieve that. You can’t make the devil more evil than he already is. So it is with Thatcher.

What this drama did achieve was a feeling of great sympathy for the mining communities. Something that the BBC and the rest of the UK media wholly failed to achieve 20 years ago. One particularly poignant clip juxtaposed footage of Thatcher surrounded by the great and the good at a state banquet with scenes of striking miners getting by at Christmas 1984, to the soundtrack of Band Aid’s “Do they know it’s Christmas?” which was then topping the charts.

Despite the film being set during the strike, it is not a dramatic re-enactment of the events of 1984–5. Instead the strike is used as a backdrop, against which the lives of two sisters, Michelle and Linda and their husbands Gary and Paul, are played out.

Gary and Paul are mates. Paul is a policeman. Gary is a miner. Gary joins the strike somewhat half-heartedly, raising his arm at a union meeting though more concerned with his hangover. Throughout the film, he is a solid supporter of the strike, but he never gives his heart and soul to it. His wife Michelle, however, soon gets involved in Women Against Pit Closures and becomes an accomplished speaker and motivator, travelling the country, addressing support rallies.

She grows visibly during the film, as so many women did during the strike, and is attracted to a heart-throb agitator who seems to be the exciting, motivated, romantic interest she is lacking at home. Appearances turn out to be deceptive. Meanwhile, Gary never quite “gets it” and stagnates at home, skint and frustrated.

Paul throws himself into strikebreaking, making friends with a group of thugs from the Met. As he takes all the overtime he can get and earns adulation from his new mates by being a hard nut on the picket lines, his wife Linda is left at home isolated and bored. After a meeting over a curry to resolve the two couples’ falling out, Gary and Linda drive back via the scenic route and a slightly inevitable affair begins in the back of Linda’s car.

It took time for the film to get going. Its pacing at the start was erratic and some of the dialogue a little clunky. What’s more, Paul looked too much like Brad Pitt for my comfort. Both Paul and Gary looked too 21st century in their nice shirts and neat short haircuts. They look nothing like the real miners and police of 1984 — with the mullet hair cuts and fashion disasters that typified that decade. But the story eventually found a bit of pace just as the events of the strike picked up.

The film finished with Gary’s rather dramatic redemption: his affair is discovered by Paul, whilst on an underhand surveillance duty. He throws himself into picket duty just two days before the strike is lost. Then he is killed, partly thanks to Gary and his mates’ heavy-handed actions.

The film credits commemorated all those killed in the miners’ strike, the pickets, the three children of strikers, killed collecting coal in Wales, and the taxi driver killed taking a scab to work. Twenty years ago the only mention of violence (picket line violence) made by the media was to condemn violence by strikers. Like the documentaries that have been aired over the year-long anniversary, this film showed a long overdue compassion to the miners and their cause.

The BBC has discovered this compassion 20 years too late. The Tories will never find theirs.

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