When British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher set about closing coal mines in 1984, it sparked a year-long strike by members of the National Union of Mineworkers, the memories of which still reverberate in the provinces.

It also prompted the most unlikely of alliances: a group of gay and lesbian activists in London saw they had much in common with the miners - a reviled minority, politically beleaguered and feeling the brutal force of state oppression - and rallied to their aid.

Their campaign, under the banner of LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners), prompted a play by Stephen Beresford, who wrote the screenplay for this stirring, if often ramshackle, film version.

It's a film in the mould of Brassed Off and The Full Monty, though it has none of the emotional heft of the former or the machine-tooled precision of the latter. But a top-flight cast gives it a rollicking, irresistibly entertaining reading that makes up for its occasional implausibilities and sanitised superficialities.

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The story's driving force, on screen as in real life, is gay rights activist Mark Ashton (Schnetzer), who starts collecting money for the cash-strapped strikers in the village, chosen at random, of Onllwyn in South Wales. When Ashton and his pals up the ante, board a bus Ken Kesey would have coveted and show up in person at the Miners' Hall, matters become slightly complicated.

So good-hearted and sincere is the entire undertaking that it seems churlish to cavil at irritating details: the production design has dressed impoverishment in its Sunday best; a homophobic villainess is ludicrously overdrawn; the Londoners make the four-hour trip as though nipping down to the dairy.

More problematically, the film is too long by at least half an hour, largely because the script seeks to stitch so many strands into its fabric: the coming out of a teenager (the age of consent for gays was 21 at the time); Aids; homophobia; provincial suspicion of London; the compatibility or otherwise of gay and lesbian aspirations.

To its credit, it avoids the most cringeworthy La Cage Aux Folles moments, although Dominic "McNulty" West's dance sequence to Shirley & Company's Shame, Shame, Shame will make reruns of The Wire hard to watch from now on.

Cast: Bill Nighy, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine, Ben Schnetzer, George MacKay
Director: Matthew Warchus
Running time: 120 mins
Rating: M (offensive language, sexual references, drug use)
Verdict: Stirring, if often ramshackle, comedy

- TimeOut