Brassed Off! (1996)




Director:     Mark Herman.

Starring:     Pete Postlethwaite (Danny), Tara Fitzgerald (Gloria), Ewan McGregor (Andy), Stephen Tompkinson (Phil), Jim Carter (Harry), Philip Jackson (Jim), Peter Martin (Ernie), Sue Johnston (Vera), Mary Healey (Ida), Melanie Hill (Sandra), Lill Roughley (Rita), Peter Gunn (Simmo), Stephen Moore (McKenzie), Kenneth Colley (Greasley), Olga Grahame (Mrs. Foggan).

the threat of a mine-closing looms over players in a Yorkshire brass band, whose impassioned leader wants a national title




Spoiler Warning:

Tory  --  member of the British Conservative party, e.g. Margaret Thatcher. 

Colliery  --  a coal mine or 'pit', one of many closed by Tory government. 

Redundancy  --  forced retirement, severance pay as offered to miners by Tories. 

Brassed off  --  dejected, fed up, upset, generally pissed off, e.g. coal miners.

Scenes of coal miners working in the mines, getting off work, showering and getting dressed in civilian clothes.  Outside the mine women and some men are protesting the closing down of coal mines. 

A woman named Gloria arrives in town.  She takes up lodging in a boarding house.  She carries with her a musical instrument known as the flugelhorn [i.e., a brass instrument that resembles a trumpet but has a wider, conical bore (which is its interior chamber that defines a flow path through which air travels and is set into vibration to produce sounds).]  Her landlady suggests that she get down to the Colliery Brass Brand which has its own practice hall. 

In the pool hall, miner Andy drinks beer, smokes and plays pool. 

Two miners' wives, Bee and Ida, talk across their backyards.  Ida says it's a sad day when "your Jim and my Ernie" are packing in the band.  Ernie said this would be their last practice.  They feel even sorrier for the band leader, Danny.

Danny, in his band outfit, starts out riding his bike the to rehearsal hall. 

Bee's husband Jim will be walking with his tuba to rehearsal hall.  He is accompanied by Ernie, who also plays the tuba.  The two men rehearse what they are going to say to Danny at rehearsal. "We've decided in the present climate to tighten our belts light and only spend money on essential items.  Sorry, it's been good and all that, but right now we don't regard band as one of the fore mentioned essential items.  And regretfully, therefore, we feel obliged to tender our resignations forthwith."  Ernie now says:  "Then we wake up in casualty."

The coal industry has been closing one mine and another in Yorkshire.  And now, it looks like the next mine to close is the one that's local, the Grimley Mine.  A redundancy offered to the miners is believed to be imminent.   The women keep their protest going. 

Andy is unhappy at the idea that the local miners are going to take the redundancy offer.  The wife of Danny's son urges her husband Phil to take the redundancy offer.  She is afraid that they will be out in the "bloody" streets.  Danny arrives and gives his son a bike ride to the rehearsal hall.  Phil plays the slide trombone. 

Danny and the band finish their first tune and Danny tells them it was a bunch of crap.  He asks his son what happened to him. Phil says his trombone just "bloody" fell apart.  Danny then tells Andy that he was all over the place with his playing of his instrument.  Andy tells the band leader that the men have got other things on their minde.  They are worried about the closing of the Grimley Mine.  Danny replies:  "Aye, what's that go to do with us?"  Danny says he knows that there are worrying times, but their band has been going on since 1881.  Ernie says:  "Can't have a colliery band without a bloody colliery, can you?"  Danny fights back by telling them they have the national finals coming up and they are well capable of going through to London and the Albert Hall. 

Danny starts taking up a collection.  Jim starts to give his speech he prepared not to pay the collection, but everyone is interrupted by the appearance of Gloria.  She says that she plays the flugel.  Danny says he's sorry, but they don't usually take outsiders.  Gloria replies:  "Aye, I understand that, except that I'm not strictly an outsider.  I were born in Grimley."  Danny asks her name.  It's Gloria Mullins.  Now Danny knows who she is.  He knew her grandfather.  Danny goes over to a photo of her grandfather and tells the band that he was the best bandsman he ever played with, the bravest miner he ever worked with and closest friend he ever had.  Andy goes and gets a chair for Gloria to sit on next to him.

Now with a pretty woman in the band, Jim and Ernie change their tune.  When Danny restarts the collection, Jim now says, despite the present climate, Danny can always count on their solidarity with the band.  Andy asks Gloria if she remembers him?  She looks at him hard and guesses that his named is Barry Andrews.  No, it's Andy Barrow. 

Danny asks Gloria what tune would she like to play with the band.  She says she has been practicing playing Rodrigo's Concerto Duranjues.  So the band will play that and feature her on the flugel. 

Gloria gives a great performance.  She's definitely in the band.  Danny says on the weekend they have a band competition and they have a chance to win some money for the band.

In the morning, Danny is up and in his band uniform.  Apparently, he has a nasty cough.  He spits up a little blood. 

The miners of Grimley attend a meeting with their union officials.  The problem is that, although they are making money hand over fist for the employers, they still want to close down the pit.  Phil speaks up and says:  "Well, tell them, bollocks to them."  He adds:  "Well we didn't do what the bastards wanted in '84, did we?  No, we dug us heals in then, didn't we?  And some of us got bloody locked up for it."  Phil says he even got suspended and it took the union officials a year and a half to get him reinstated.  That was 18 months on bloody strike pay.  Phil almost gets in a fight with one of the smart-alecks who keeps interrupting him.  The other men hold the two men back. 

The officials say that the men have two options.  The officials want them to take the option of asking for a review of the situation with a stress on the profitability of the pit in Grimley.  Or they can vote to take the redundancy money, which the employers have just recently increased.  Judging from the clapping for the review option, there seems to be a good deal of support for asking for the review and trying to keep the pit open.

Phil is at home taking care of the kids, while his wife takes a break.  One of his sons sees him talking to two men, one of whom  keeps aggressively poking at Phil's chest.  The boy asks his dad who were those men and Phil lies and says they're just a couple of fellows.  The boy then asks if dad is in trouble?  Phil lies and says no. 

At the pool hall, Andy and his friend talk about Gloria.  At one time, Andy and Gloria were close.  Now, says Andy, she couldn't even remember his name.  Gloria passes through the pool hall to go upstairs to her apartment.  She exchanges smiles with Andy. 

Jim and Ernie are heading for the bus to go to the band contest.  They get grief from their wives who laugh at them for not having the balls (bollocks) to just quit.  A little later they meet Gloria and they now know what it really was that keep their husbands in the band. 

Danny waits by the entrance onto the bus to greet the band players.  Phil arrives with all his kids with him.  He tells his dad, it's either the kids come with him, or he doesn't go to the contest.  Gloria gets on and sits between Jim and Ernie.  Andy is the last one to get on the bus.  That is, with the exception, of Jim and Ernie's wives getting on the bus at the last second in order to keep an eye on their fellows.  The wives sit on either side of Gloria in the very back of the bus and next to their husbands on either end.

The different bands walk down the main street playing their music.  Other bands win in the various 14 contests, but not Grimley.  At the break the Grimley band members suck down some beer.  Gloria and Andy drink together.  After drinking too much, the band starts performing much worse.  Danny is really getting mad at the band. 

At night, back at the rehearsal hall, Danny gives the band a verbal balling out:  "Laughing!  There were bloody laughing at us!"  The men say it didn't go very well because they know the band has got to go when the pit closes.  So that's why some of the band members drank too much.  And Phil's slide trombone fell to pieces.  Danny gets a bit angry and raises his voice to say:  "If they close down the pit  -- knock it down;  fill it up, like they done with all the bloody rest, no trace.  Years to come, there'll be only one reminder . . . this bloody band.  Oh, they can shut up  the unions, they can shut up the workers, but I'll tell you one thing, . . .  they'll never shut us up.   We'll play on!  Loud as ever!   . . . So, now are we playing!  Or are we packing in!"  Gloria says:  "Playing."  The other band members say they will play on until the pit closes.   A bit disgusted, Danny walks away from the band. 

Andy asks Gloria to have some grub with him.  She can even go posh, if she wants.  Gloria agrees. 

Phil goes to check on his dad.  Danny is busy coughing into his handkerchief.  Phil asks him how's it going, but dad only says that his son needs to get a new slide trombone.  Phil notices some blood on his father's handkerchief and asks his dad about it.  Dad just dismisses the question, but Phil is worried. 

At the definitely not posh restaurant, Andy asks Gloria straight out:  "You work for bloody management, don't you?"  She says all she does is some viability studies and that's hardly something to be ashamed of.  She didn't say anything about it, because she knew the workers would take it the wrong way.  She wants the same things that Andy wants.  And she thinks she can help keep the pit open with her reports concerning the mine.  And she thinks that the miners will vote for the review.  Andy says no.  He gives odds of 4 to 1 that the men will vote for the redundancy.  And, according to Andy:  ". . . your report means as much to  them as we do, bugger all!  It's just a bloody P. R. exercise, so blind, naive people  -- people not unlike yourself -- will think those good eggs at head office have been very fair, very reasonable, done their best, done their sums, and, oh, dear, they just don't add up.  They'll have to close another pit.  Shame.  They won't even read the bugger.  They've already made their decision, probably when you were still at college."  Gloria doesn't have the experience to know what employers can do to workers to keep them down and themselves kept up. 

After dinner, Gloria says that she knew Andy's real name all along.  She invites him up for coffee and Andy accepts.

Phil sees a slide trombone in a shop window and starts thinking he just might grab it.  Jim and Ernie come along and stop him. 

Danny sees Andy coming out of the closed pool hall.  He knows Andy was up there with Gloria. 

The union vote is taken. 

Gloria tells her boss that she's worried that her report may be somewhat immaterial.  The boss tells her that her report is vital, absolutely paramount.  He says they want to keep the pit open, but they have to make their decision on the basis of detailed, accurate reports from highly qualified people, such as Gloria herself.  That cheers up Gloria. 

Jim and Ernie, accompanied by Andy, now see Gloria coming out the main mine offices.  They figure it out that Gloria works for management.  Jim drives his car up to her to confront her somewhat.  He asks her what's a nice girl like Gloria doing in a horrible place like this?  Gloria evades the question, but Jim already knows.  He saw the management logo on Gloria's key ring. 

At the pool hall, Jim maliciously teases Andy about it being "true" love between him and Gloria.  Andy tells him that he's not a kid anymore.  Jim says he's old enough to be a scab.  That stops Andy, as well as the others.  Andy objects to the use of that word and so Jim apologizes.  He says Andy is not a scab, but just a "stupid fucker".   Andy thinks about it awhile and then says:  "That's more like it" and leaves.

Phil makes some extra money playing a clown at birthday parties.  He goes by the name of Mr. Chuckles.  Mr. Chuckles, however, is not a very good clown. 

Phil's wife, Sandra, doesn't have enough money for her groceries, so she tells her eldest boy to go put back the liquid soap she bought.  But, she is still short.  Jim's wife tells Sandra that she'll collect the owed money from her next time she comes in.  She also gives Phil's wife some money out of her own pocket. 

Still dressed like a clown, Phil walks home.  He sees the two repossession guys that accosted him before at his home and knocking down one of his kids.  Phil hurries over there and asks the men what they're doing?  They say they will be back with a truck to take the contents of the house on another day because Phil cannot keep up with the payments.  The big bruiser of a fellow gives Phil a black eye and a cut over his eye because Phil told the guy if he ever touched one of his kids again he would kill him.  The repossession fellows now leave.  Then Sandra sees he has a newer slide trombone (bought with his clown money) and gets angry with him.  He says that Andy lent it to him. 

One of the musicians is having marital problems because of their financial problems.  Harry's wife Rita gets angry with him and has it out with him as he starts walking to the band bus for the trip to Halifax.  She tells him:  "Go on!  Sod off!"

This bus trip Andy will not be sitting by Gloria. 

In Halifax the band performs before a good-sized crowd. 

The vote for redundancy was 758.  So the pit will definitely close. 

As Sandra goes through her husband's clothes, she finds the receipt for payment of 50 pounds for a trombone with his still owing 250 pounds in payments.  She is furious with Phil.  The repossession men arrive and take virtually everything from the house. 

The Grimley Colliery Band wins the contest.  The men and women of Grimley are ecstatic over the results.  But when they arrive back in Grimley, they learn that the pit is closing.  Danny walks away form the group.  Rita comes over to Harry to tell him it went 4 to one for redundancy.  She starts crying.  Phil sees his dad walking by himself. Then dad collapses onto the road.  Phil goes running to his father followed by everybody else.  Someone calls for an ambulance.

At the hospital Jim tells Gloria that it's time for her to leave the band.  Gloria says she was on Jim's side and she always was.  She walks over to Andy, but he won't even look at her. 

Phil goes home just in time to see Sandra drive off with the children, leaving her husband behind.  He goes into his very empty house.  He gets a phone call from Harry. 

Phil and the whole band play a tune, Danny Boy, for Danny outside the hospital window.  Danny hears the tune from his hospital bed. 

After the little concert is over, the guys all go up to see Danny.  They give Danny a gift: a conductor's wand. 

Gloria has finished with her report and now has a bit of a confrontation with the big bosses.  She says she writes reports that are not to be seen.  Grimley was a profitable pit.  And the decision was made not today, but weeks ago.  Her immediate boss tells her she's wrong.  The decision to close the mine was made two years ago.  "Coal is history . . . "

Gloria talks with Andy.  He says she was sleeping with the enemy.  She says she was not doing that.  She is like Andy:  unemployed.  "I told them to stuff it."  She starts to leave.  Gloria says something good will happen and she hopes it will come when they go to the Albert Hall.  Andy informs her that they are not going.  The whole trip would costs them 3,000 pounds.  "No, the band's dead.  It died with everything else."

Andy speaks with Phil and finds out that Phil has still not told his father that they are not going to the Albert Hall.  Andy tells Phil that he just has to tell Danny.  So Phil goes to visit his father to tell him.  Danny tells him that he worked on changing the music arrangements for the music for Albert Hall.  So Phil still doesn't tell his father. 

Phil is so down mentally that he blows it while acting as Mr. Chuckles at a child's birthday party.  He starts denouncing God as unfair, unjust and he upsets the children.  The mothers there tell Mr. Chuckles that he should be ashamed of himself.

Rita's eldest boy tells Rita that he doesn't want to see his father sad, but he rather see his father sad, then not see him at all. 

Phil tries to hang himself down at the Colliery.  Two policemen come along and save him. 

In his hospital bed, Danny sees Mr. Chuckles being pulled down the hall on a gurney.  He gets himself out of bed to go talk with his son.  Danny asks him:  "What the bloody hell were you playing at, lad?"    Phil says he has lost everything: wife, kids, house, job, self-respect. 

Gloria comes into the local pub where Phil, Harry, Jim, Ernie and Andy are having a drink at the pub.   She has brought the men the 3,000 pounds that they need for the Albert Hall trip.  It's her money.  She says she doesn't want the money because it's dirty money.  Jim says she really must feel guilty if she has to give them the 3,000 pounds.  Gloria stands up to him saying she didn't do it for herself.  "I did it for you and Danny."  Feeling a bit bad about his comment, he invites Gloria back into the band.  Now Andy rushes over to the phone.  He wants to buy his musical instrument back from his friend, the pool player.  The fellows end up playing a round of pool for the instrument.  Andy wins and gets his musical instrument back. 

Phil runs over to the hospital, but the nurse won't let him see Danny.  So Phil writes a note for his father when he wakes up.

With the band on board, the bus leaves for the Royal Albert Hall, located in South Kensington, facing onto Hyde Park, London.

The nurse goes to check on Danny and finds that he has gone to the Albert Hall.  On the bed is Phil's note saying "We're going!"

Harry leads the band in the William Tell Overture.  Phil sees his wife and kids in the audience.  Behind them, Danny arrives.  Phil sees his father behind him. 

The audience loved the performance and they give the band a strong round of applause.  And Grimley is declared the winner of the contest. 

Danny is the one who speaks for the band.  "This band behind me, I'll tell you, that that trophy means more to me out else in the whole world.  But they'd be wrong.  Truth is, I thought it mattered.  I thought that music mattered, but does it, bollocks, not compared to how people matter.  Those winning this trophy won't mean bugger all to most people, but those refusing it, like what we're going to do now, well then, it becomes news doesn't it?  (The photojournalists start snapping photos.)  You see what I mean.  That way I will not just be talking to myself, will I?  Because over the last ten years, this bloody government has systematically destroyed an entire industry, our industry, and not just our industry, our communities, our homes, our lives, all in the name of progress and for a few lousy bob.  I'll tell you something else you might not know as well.  A fortnight ago this band's pit were closed.  Another thousand men lost their jobs.  And that's not all they lost.   Most of them lost the will to win a while ago.  A few of them even lost the will to fight.  But when it comes to losing the will to live, to breathe.  The point is, if this lot were all seals or whales, you'd all be up in bloody arms.  But they're not are they now?   No they're not.  They're just ordinary, common garden, honest, decent human beings.   And not one of them with an ounce of bloody hope left.  Why, they can knock out  a bloody good tune, but what the fuck does that matter? . . .  Now I'm going to take my boys on to the town."

The people applaud Danny's speech.  Jim goes and gets their trophy. 

Sandra reunites with Phil.  And Andy kisses Gloria. 

Danny leads the band in playing Pomp and Circumstance.

There were 140 pits closed since 1984.  250,000 jobs were terminated.  Draw your own conclusion. 


Conservative "reformers" are not good reformers in the sense that they don't seem to care what the effects will be on the workers effected by the reforms.  Such is the case of Margaret Thatcher in Britain.  Conservative reformers are only partially good people.  They love to help their fellow rich people, but don't do much of anything to help the people negatively affected by making reforms to help the economic system for the wealthy.  Such workers should be given access to reeducation in more modern industries and they should be given some temporary fiscal help to aid them in moving their families and getting their lives restarted. 

So when you watching movies about conservative reformers such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, think about the little people they left behind in the dust in their rush to help their wealthy colleagues. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 




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