Emily Watson gives another quietly powerful and sensitive performance in a true story so appalling that generations of British and Australian governments refused to acknowledge it had taken place.
Watson plays Nottingham social worker Margaret Humphreys (on whose book, Empty Cradles, this is based), who uncovered the scandal of forced child migration.
An estimated 130,000 British children in care were shipped to Australia where, they were told, they would enjoy sunshine and oranges for breakfast.
Many were essentially enslaved and brutally abused in a policy carried out until 1970.
The film recounts Humphreys’s battles against bureaucracy, threats and intimidation on both sides of the world – most unnervingly from ‘charitable’ organisations and ‘religious’ communities involved in this scandal – while she fought to reunite families and restore identities to damaged people.
The drama is boosted by Australian favourites Hugo Weaving and David Wenham as British deportees whose experiences, depression and anger fuel Humphreys’s determination to expose the truth.
Director Jim Loach (son of Ken) opts for realism and restraint in dealing with sensitive and inflammatory issues.
As a result, the film is low on dramatic flair but the story is inherently so devastating it holds your outraged attention.