Happily, Oranges And Sunshine is at the opposite end of the intelligence spectrum, and it’s a pleasure to welcome one movie that won’t damage your brain cells and actually has a story worth telling.
Forty-one-year-old Jim Loach seems to have inherited his father Ken’s taste for socially conscious film-making, and he’s done a decent job here.
This is the gripping true story of Nottingham social worker Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson), who discovered an all too real scandal: that from the 1890s through to 1970, the British government deported 130,000 children, some of whom had living parents, to become slave labour and/or abuse victims in Australia.
It’s a shocking story, and Loach approaches it responsibly, never wallowing in the suffering of the young. Hearing adults recount their terrible childhood experiences is quite powerful enough.
Watson is determined yet vulnerable, and she’s ably supported by a predominantly Australian cast, with Hugo Weaving and David Wenham outstanding.
This is a film that would be just as effective on television, and it’s probably too low-key and depressing to be a hit. The thrillerish aspects — menacing phone-calls, sinister priests — aren’t followed through. And it begs more questions than it answers about the abusers and government policy.
All the same, this is a moving, thoughtful, grown-up film that’s a genuine eye-opener.