In ways, Jim Loach’s Oranges and Sunshine might have been made by his father, Ken. But while Loach père can sometimes ram his political convictions down his viewers’ throats, there’s a commendable restraint to Jim Loach’s film.
Oranges and Sunshine is based on the remarkable story of Margaret Humphreys, a social worker who exposed a scandal involving the deportation of British children in care to Australia. Emily Watson plays Humphreys, a family social worker in 80s Nottingham who is approached by a young Australian woman in distress.
The woman has come to England to look for her mother, from whom she was separated as a small child. After being taken into care, she was promised a new life of "oranges and sunshine", and shipped off to Australia with hundreds of other children. When Humphreys starts to investigate, she uncovers an unofficial policy that stretched back to the late 19th century and involved the covert exporting of children in care to Australia.
Humphreys heads to Australia and, outraged by what she finds, sets out to expose this scandal and help its victims to find the families they lost.
Jim Loach handles this difficult subject with commendable subtlety. His film is lean and admirably focused, and Watson is wonderfully empathetic as Humphreys.
Equally moving are two brilliant performances from Hugo Weaving and David Wenham as former victims with very different ways of coping with the past.