August 6, 2011
It’s been labelled one of the biggest social scandals in recent history.
Oranges and Sunshine is based on the true story of Margaret Humphreys (played by Emily Watson), a social worker from Nottingham, who uncovered the forced migration of British children in government care to Commonwealth countries like Australia.
The movie has been described as a bit of a “tear jerker”, so did it hit all the right notes with our movie review duo? Have a listen or read below.
I generally avoid watching new releases on planes. It’s too like sitting through a cry baby session screened on an iPad. However, a friend mentioned that she’d just watched Oranges and Sunshine on the plane and I thought, actually that would be OK. I’d also happily watch it first on video. This is because the film is about story, not cinematography. It’s a powerful story. Our institutional attitudes to children and parenting have changed rather a lot over a scant generation or two. After our education about the plight of the Stolen Generation and the subsequent apology, this too is a story that has to be told.
The film is an Australian/UK co-production which switches between both countries. It adopts a restrained almost documentary style. The acting is unpretentious, genuine and every day. Only two or three characters are developed. Yet in them we feel much self sacrifice and loss. I really don’t want to discuss the story because it is the reason to see the film. Anyway, the story is quite implausible – except for the small matter of its being true. And the film tells it well. Although, it does take a while to engage. Not your Hollywood blockbuster rather reflective of our recent national history. So be patient and hang in there at the start.
Oh, and it seems we are not the land of the Vegemite sandwich after all.
I give the film three stars, but the story five.
Plot: Based on a true story, Oranges and Sunshine stars Emily Watson as Margaret Humphreys, an English social worker who, after a chance meeting with a stranger, uncovers the shocking story of England’s postwar deportation of 130,000 children. The children were shipped off in boats to Commonwealth countries, mainly Australia by the government in the mid 50’s and 60’s. Families thought the children were being taken from them to be given a better life with other families, including the best in education and lifestyle, but in reality they were all sent to children’s homes, and suffered hard labor and abuse for many years. The film sees Margaret meeting these children as broken adults, all searching for the missing pieces of their history. Against many challenges and great opposition, she devotes herself to finding the missing family members, as well as putting the spotlight on the scandal, bringing worldwide attention to the government and the organisations involved, such as the Australian charity – Fairbridge Farm Schools. The heart of the film shows the struggle faced in helping these people find some resolution to the tragedies of their stolen past.
Review: This is a shocking scandal of our very recent past that is very sensitively told in this film, directed by Jim Loach. Shot in England and South Australia, Emily Watson gives a mesmerizing performance as Margaret Humphreys. The emotional experiences of the victims in this film are not dramatized in any way, yet the sense of the pain they have carried with them for decades is palpable. Hugo Weaving is heart breaking as Jack – who, having been told as a child that his mother was dead, is shocked to discover after being reunited with his sister that their mother is missing, and not necessarily dead after all. David Wenham plays the quintessential no nonsense Aussie bloke, Len, who seems to have to come to terms more with his past than many others, yet still, in the face of at last meeting his mother, is confronted by the demons of his past. This film is not sentimental, and does a great job of bringing together the many details, from the stories of thousands of victims, that show us this shameful period in our history,
I gave this film 3 and a half stars.