Oranges and Sunshine review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
Oranges and Sunshine tells the true story of social worker Margaret Humphreys who in 1987 discovered a government run scheme that relocated poor British children to other countries in the Commonwealth of Nations; often without their parent’s knowledge.
Humphreys is played by Emily Watson, who puts in a stunning and touching performance of a woman both determined and disturbed by the truth she is uncovering. Humphreys travels to Australia in an attempt to reunite children with their families, some of whom were told their parents were dead, whilst others simply did not know they existed at all. Watson’s performance is simply one of many honest and moving performances of the film, particularly her husband, played by TV regular Richard Dillane, which fuel this dreadful, tragic and beautiful drama.
Directed by the son of veteran British realist director Ken Loach, Jim Loach, the film has the same painful aspect that many of his father’s films do. However Oranges and Sunshine is not quite the hard watch most expect from the elder Loach. The film burns ever so slowly, which helps keep the tension at a respectable height without being relentless. Throughout the film exudes a gentle and understated tragedy without letting the suspense and horror of the situation droop. Much of this is helped by the excellent performances of Watson and her co-stars, including brilliant but very different performances of David Wenham and Hugo Weaving.
As you would expect from a Loach the depiction of bearcats is not a kind one, where those on both sides, Australia and the UK alike, are shown to be short sighted and ultimately monetary single minded. Whilst the religious Christian organisation involved in institutional relocation of the children are barbaric and utterly inhuman; where instances of brutality and mental and sexual abuse are treated with the horror and distain they deserve.
In many ways the film is very dark and unpleasant, yet thanks to Watson, the heart and soul of the movie, the film is almost uplifting. Albeit painful, emotional and dramatic, Oranges and Sunshine is an undeniable Anglo-Australian success.