What to say of you liked it
A poignant reminder of the trauma of the 1980s miners’ strike that skilfully weaved a human drama into the lucidly exhibited struggle between the police and miners.
What to say of you didn’t like it
Disgorged futile socialist propaganda which has been speciously cocooned around a simplistic and pathetic tale of how the miners’ strike split communities down the lines of police oppressors and discriminated, valiant miners.
What was good about it?
•A fantastic cast of Jamie Draven as miner Gary, Christine Tremarco as his idealistic wife Michelle, Maxine Peak as her sister Linda and Adrian Bower as her policeman husband Paul. Plus the excellent Neil Stuke as Met Police Officer Nigel, Clive Russell as local NUM chief Gordon and Jason Flemyng as middle-class socialist agitator Martin.
• The wilfully adversarial up of the narrative that soon pitted Gary and Paul against one another after Paul was assigned to be local liaison officer to the squad of London coppers who’d been sent up to ensure the miners didn’t intimidate those who still wished to work; and as a consequence set Michelle and Linda at odds, too.
Gary, Gordon and the rest of the miners’ protests outside pits were expertly segued into archive news reports from the time so you could barely spot the join.
• While much of the bile was conspicuously aimed at Margaret Thatcher, the drama also used to character of Martin James to expose the righteous delusions of revolution-seeking socialists, the utter ineptitude of the 1980s Labour Party and the peacock strutting of Arthur Scargill. Martin was the most militant character at first but ultimately disclosed to the police where Michelle had hidden funds in order to gain a platform from where he believed he could effect real change.
• The persistent, vivid atmosphere of combat visible in the bloodied clothes and cut faces of the miners and police.
• It didn’t use George Michael’s Faith as the theme tune, but along the same lines we’re disappointed the Cure’s appropriately morbid song of the same name wasn’t used.
What was bad about it?
• We’re not sure what was less likely: The Smiths’ What Difference Does It Make being played on the radio, or that a bunch of miners wouldn’t tune to a different station the moment Morrissey started singing.
• London copper Nigel’s remark to Paul, after he helped them organise a decent night out, that he was “like Bruce Willis and Alan Whicker all rolled into one”. In 1984, Bruce Willis was unknown in Britain and still a few years short of his career defining role in Die Hard.
• The affair between Gary and Linda was unconvincing and seemed to come about out of dramatic necessity to power the second half of the tale. Admittedly, both were feeling neglected as Michelle followed her father into NUM politics and rallies and Paul enjoyed nights on the town with his new London pals, but neither seemed so bereft they would betray their partners. And as their affair was pivotal, the whole conclusion where Paul hit Linda after he found out about them and Gary died under the wheels of a bus at a picket line while wrestling with Paul was blunted.
• Michelle standing weeping beside Gary’s flower drenched grave in the pouring rain, while a contrite Paul watched from a respectable distance in the 12 billionth instance