Pride is, in the first place, an irresistibly nice movie. There's a question to be asked whether that is, in and of itself, its big problem. For it is also a movie set against an extremely non-nice pair of events: the miners' strike of 1984-'85 in Great Britain, and the expanding AIDS crisis. And while the film touches on both of these topics - the miners' strike is the engine driving the plot, after all - it does so awfully gingerly, as though it's terrified to ruin the audience's good time by reminding us of the stakes of its own story. A story this steeped in political activism that's so skittish about the actual stuff of politics can't help but be frustrating; but genial British comedies have been trivialising the causes and consequences of the strike for years now. So if nothing else, Pride is in good company.

More importantly, the film's a genuinely effective crowd-pleaser of a sort that the UK film industry used to crank out with great regularity back in the '90s and early '00s, and isn't really any more. And the crowd it's pleasing isn't one that wants a nuanced discussion of class issues under Thatcher, or would know what to do with one if it had been provided in this form. So judging the film according to its own goals, it's a pretty clear-cut success across the board: full of well-etched characters who feel like "types" but are also fully-realised as people with individual personalities and identities, able to deftly mix light comedy, bawdy jokes, and sobriety without giving the viewer tonal whiplash. And even in its rather cagey appropriation of only the bits of politics and history it feels comfortable engaging with, it does the admirable and necessary work of calling attention to a rather special and unique political alliance.

That alliance being between Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, the brainchild of Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), gay activist and Communist (the latter fact quietly removed from the movie), and the miners' union in Onllwyn, Wales. The film simplifies the history a bit in the interest of keeping things focused more on the characters involved, which is quite a range of humanity played by one of the best casts assembled in 2014. Among the LGBT activists, we find shy, closted 20-year-old virgin Joe (George McKay) - the one entirely fictional character in the cast - middle-aged couple Jonathan (Dominic West) and Gethin (Andrew Scott), and punk Steph (Faye Marsay); among the miners and the townsfolk, the ebullient Hefina (Imelda Staunton), enthusiastic Siân (Jessica Gunning), taciturn wiseman Cliff (Bill Nighy), and the delightfully awkward Dai, who ends up the bumbling but wholly well-meaning ambassador between LGSM and the miners, and is played to quiet, earnest perfection by Paddy Considine, who I'd just barely be willing to give best in show honors to, slightly edging out Schnetzer. But everybody's great, and I've really just cherry-picked some new and established names; in point of fact, Pride includes a solid two-dozen characters of greater or lesser importance who linger in the memory, fleshing out the village with people who make lasting impression with just a few minutes to sketch in a backstory and feelings about this unprecedented turn of events, and giving all of the activists individual histories within the general overlap that unites them all, that sneak out as we observe them rather than being baldly stated.

Writer Stephen Beresford and director Matthew Warchus collide their two groups with unexpected gentleness; other than a token bigot family, and some late-coming complications, there's very little "rural blue-collar men mistrust The Gays" drama that would seem to be a natural fit for a film like this, and cheers to that. It only deprives the film of easy jokes, and forces it instead to explore more delicate dynamics of how people behave in new situations, what choices they make as to how to present themselves, and the judgments they make (or don't) about other people's merits. This is sweetened by a predominately jokey, broad tone in the beginning, mostly carried by the ladies of the village and their blowsy fascination with this new breed of man that isn't sullen, grunting, and coated in coal dust; but for all that the selling point of Pride is it genial facility with quips, what sticks about it is the basic decency of all the people within it, and how happily it invites us to enjoy watching their decency unfold.

That's not all there is to it, I suppose. It's all that it really needs; it's more than a lot of the stand-issue working class Britcom, with its population of cartoon eccentrics, is able to claim. It's certainly what's most satisfying about the film; though I am sure that there's an audience, and not a small one, that finds its depiction of the mid-'80s evolution of gay political engagement in Britain to be bracing and smart rather than needlessly restrained (I doubt that there's an audience that could be entirely happy with the tossed-off treatment of the mining strike, but it's a big world). At any rate, the idea that basically good people can team up with other basically good people to make the world a basically better place is Pride's animating ethos, and it's given a lot of warm life by this treatment.

It's hardly a challenging or adventurous piece of filmmaking. The bright cinematography, by Tat Radcliffe, nimbly captures the colors and feeling of the film's re-creation of the 1980s (Charlotte Walter's costumes are splendid in this regard), and there are some terrific wide shots that depict Onllwyn with a grounded sense that keeps the film steady and true, but it's mostly a simple, conservative aesthetic. There are moments where Christopher Nightingale's score tries a bit too hard to tell us exactly what to feel, and they tend to come at the worst possible moments, but that's probably the film's biggest misstep (outside of a corny, hacky scene where the gays teach the straights how to Dance!!!!!). And for every mildly bad moment, there's a great moment to offset it: the coming to terms between a gay man and his long-estranged mother, done almost wordlessly; the nuances of staging and performance that let us know that one character learns he has AIDS without needing to stop the drama cold to clarify it; the giddy joy a bunch of old ladies feel upon finding gay porn.

The film could go deeper into its subject; the film could be more honest about the factual events it chooses to depict. These are givens, with mainstream film treatments of history. But within its limits, it's tremendously perceptive and warm and good-humored, and with a mix of genre and topic that seem tailor-made for shtick, that's a pretty terrific achievement.