Directed by Jim Loach
Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars
THERE will be oranges, sunshine, and a horse to ride to school. This was the promise a 10-year-old boy in a Nottingham children’s home was given before being forcefully deported to Australia, never to see his mother again.
While this synopsis sounds like the basis for a horror film, it gets even worse when you discover it is true – and happened to 130,000 British children in the aftermath of the Second World War up to 1970.
Oranges and Sunshine tells the story of social worker Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson), who set about not just exposing the behaviour of the British and Australian governments, but has also set up an organisation to help those rehoused in terrible children’s homes in the southern hemisphere.
We meet Margaret as she is holding sessions for people who have been adopted. One day an Australian lady appears and says to her: “I think I was removed from this city as a four-year-old and shipped to Australia. Can you help me find my mother?”
Margaret is intrigued, yet disbelieving – children don’t just get deported to the other side of the world without their parents, do they?
It sets in train an investigation that is continuing today.
Often the children were removed simply because they were born out of wedlock. And social straitjackets are the cornerstone of this tale.
For a film with so many opportunities to pull a heartstring or two, it downplays things a little. However, the actors get it right, as does the script. The baddies get both barrels: the Christian Brothers at Bindoon, one of the awful children’s homes these poor children were sent to, are shown to be a bunch of evil sadists, raping boys, and using them as slave labour.
Above all, it is refreshing to see a film with a social worker as a hero. Evidence shows these public servants suffer immense trauma. The sorts of cases social workers are required to deal with would make your toes curl and they are unable to leave their jobs at the factory gates at 5.30pm. Their personal relationships often suffer. Can you imagine having to deal with awful abuse situations and it not haunting you at the end of the day?
It also means social workers are often unable to work in the profession for any great length of time, complaining of symptoms that doctors agree is post-traumatic stress. Yet social workers are the tabloid press’s bogeymen. Is it that cases such as Victoria Climbié and Baby Peter are well publicised and social workers are often made the scapegoats, yet the millions of people they help never get any publicity?
It makes a refreshing change to watch a film with a social worker as the lead and hero.