Brassed Off is a 1996 British film starring Ewan McGregor and Tara Fitzgerald. It is the story of a colliery brass band from the town of Grimley. Their mining pit is facing closure by the government, which places the miners in a pickle – do they protest the closure, or remain silent in the hopes of gaining a large one off payment from the government?
Despite these dilemmas, the brass band continues to rehearse for a competition that will give them the opportunity to play at the Royal Albert Hall, and fulfil the life long dream of band leader Danny (Pete Postlethwaite). Enter Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald), sent by the government to determine whether or not it’s worth keeping the mine open, and a talented player of the flugelhorn. She becomes the only female member of the brass band and renews a childhood friendship with Andy (Ewan McGregor), which stumbles a little when Andy discovers Gloria’s real purpose in Grimley.
It’s a fantastic film, with both dark and light moments, and is viewed as a pointed attack on the Thatcher and Major governments, who were responsible for many pit closures in Britain in the 80’s and 90’s. The soundtrack is played by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, a band that actually went through the same struggles outlined in the movie.
The highlight for me is the scene where Gloria asks to join the band, and brings out her flugelhorn. The miners are friendly enough, but don’t quite believe that she can play. “I’m a bit wobbly” she warns them, before demonstrating that she’s more talented than the bunch of them put together when she solos on Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuéz. As the band plays, you see silent shots of various meetings discussing the closure of the mines, and the press surrounding government members as they leave, before Gloria wraps it up and the band stare in awed silence. “And she calls that ‘wobbly'” Danny the conductor says, before the miners erupt in disbelieving applause. Beautiful.