Saturday, 18 June 2011

Brassed Off (1996)

It is 1994, and the Grimely Coal mine in Yorkshire is in danger of being closed. With various problems in their homelife compounding their misery, one of the few pleasures that the miners can look forward to is playing in the Grimely Colliery Brass Band. Despite various deteriorating circumstances (wives moving out taking the kids with them; seriously ill father, attempted suicide, female member of the band turns out to be working for the British Coal Board who are involved in closing the mine), the band win various local competitions, and head to the final in the Royal Albert Hall.

I expected Brassed Off to be funnier; I guess I had just pegged it wrong. What it does do is paint a fairly grim picture of what it must have been like through the 80s and early 90s as coal pit after pit was facing closure. It is certainly eye-opening; as I grew up in the 80s I was aware of the phrase “miners strikes” being used a lot on the news, but was too young to really understand the politics of it all; so I had no idea that these hard-working men were being let down by their government so badly, and how hard life must have been for them.

There are funny moments of course but the main focus is very much on the drama; and very good drama too. Pete Postlethwaite is typically brilliant as Danny the band leader (he has a great speech at the end of the film in The Royal Albert Hall, highlighting the plight of their society to the London public), and there are similarly solid performances from the likes of Ewan McGregor, Stephen Tompkinson, Tara Fitzgerald and others. A great film in the same vein as The Full Monty: A comedy-drama set against the backdrop of industrial upheavals in recent British history. Though Brassed Off is more about the drama than its more glamorous Sheffield cousin!