This bittersweet comedy from writer/director Mark Herman (Little Voice) was so horribly promoted by the Mouseketeering marketeers over at Miramax, it’s a wonder the film received any notice at all. Do not judge this movie by the cover copy (or by the trailer)! Brassed Off was sold as a romantic comedy starring Ewan “Obi-Wan Trainspotting” McGregor and Tara “The Cutie From Sirens” Fitzgerald as reunited high school sweethearts whose antics make sparks fly and spin their quaint English burg all topsy-turvy. I wouldn’t rush out to see that movie, either.
Truthfully, Brassed Off is a heartwarming ensemble comedy about the plight of a coal mining community facing “redundancy” from Thatcher’s Tory government, intent on closing down mining operations, even profitable ones, to open nuclear power plants. At the heart of this town is Danny (Pete Postlethwaite), a retired miner who conducts the local brass band and who dreams of taking them to the national finals at The Royal Albert Hall. Turning a blind eye to the imminent closure of the mine, his own failing health and the financial and marital woes of his son, Phil (Stephen Tompkinson), Danny convinces his fellows that the music is the most important thing.
Ewan McGregor plays Andy, a fluegelhorn player, who is indeed in love with high school sweetheart, Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald), in spite of the fact that she is management. It is the return of Gloria, a fluegler herself and a particularly good one, who first galvanizes the band to consider marching on. The discovery of Gloria’s role as a surveyor in the government profitability probe turns the band members/miners against each other.
However, the story belongs to Danny and Postlethwaite’s touching performance as the proud, noble conductor, dying of black lung, but clinging to a belief in this one honorable local tradition. The sentiment in Brassed Off is well placed, never veering toward whankiness or pontification. Even the stand-up-and-applaud monologues ease off any affected dramatic conclusion. Brassed Off is a funny, touching little movie.