It can’t be easy to be the film-maker son of Ken Loach.
But Jim, whose first feature this is, has a story and a half to tell and encompasses it without trying any arty tricks. If the result is more earnest than inspirational, you’ll remember the subject long after watching it.
The central character is Margaret Humphreys, the real-life social worker from Nottingham who uncovered the scandal of the thousands of British children in care deported to Australia, promised oranges and sunshine and placed in boarding institutions where they were abused, often by priests, in every possible way.
Humphreys brought this scandal to light by taking time off from her regular job – and from her marriage – to discover the deportees’ real names, find their relatives, and fight the authorities in the UK and Australia until everyone admitted what had happened. It took years off her life but gave new hope to many who’d been told their parents were dead.
Humphreys is played by Emily Watson with quiet, undemonstrative conviction, though Rona Munro’s screenplay doesn’t often give her that much scope.
Oranges and Sunshine singles out the stories of two deportees -Hugo Weaving’s traumatised veteran and David Wenham’s more aggressive younger man.
Both performances are excellent but the film does meander at points. Even so, it tells a startling story and how one persistent seeker after truth triumphed despite everything put in her way.