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Published on August 25th, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie

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Oranges And Sunshine Film Review: A Troubled Truth Comes To Light

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Director: Jim Loach.
Cast: Emily Watson, David Wenham and Hugo Weaving.

Oranges and Sunshine deals with a horrific theme the deportation of British children from the care of the state to Australia. This is a difficult subject matter to watch and even more difficult to portray on screen. The great danger with such issues is the temptation to resort  to mawkish sentimentality. Thankfully, Oranges And Sunshine commits no such errors of judgement.

Jack (Hugo Weaving) And Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson) In Oranges And Sunshine

Between 1947 and 1967 roughly ten thousand British children were exported to Australia at the behest of the UK government, various charities and religious institutions. Many of these children were separated from their siblings, some were abused by religious orders such as the Christian Brothers and forced to pay for their upkeep while they worked as little more than child slaves. Oranges And Sunshine is the true story of one woman’s quest to help these victims of awful abuse tell their story.

The script is well-written, the storyline compelling and the acting solid. Oranges And Sunshine sucks the viewer into its world and brings us on a journey more bizarre and disturbing than any piece of fiction.

Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson) In Oranges And Sunshine

Emily Watson is superb is as Margaret Humphreys. She exudes a quiet magnetism that attracts the viewer. Taciturn, perhaps emotionally arrested, Margaret is enigmatic throughout the film. We never know why she is  so deeply motivated to help people she barely knows. It is this sense of mystery that adds to the character but frustrates the viewer.

David Wenham delivers a sterling performance as Len, the at times contrary and arrogant business man.  Wenham excels at managing to simultaneously show both the superficial mask of confidence his character uses to protect himself and the vulnerable hurt child underneath.

‘Merv’s character remains underdeveloped’

Richard Dillane, who plays Merv, the husband of Margaret Humphreys, does as best he can with the role. Merv’s character remains underdeveloped and the viewer could have benefited more with his character providing better insight into his wife Margaret who remains elusively unknown.

Len (David Wenham) And Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson) In Oranges And Sunshine

Hugo Weaving rounds off an excellent cast as the somewhat broken, Jack. A tortured and tormented soul, Jack is in constant turmoil trying to deal with the cavernous hole of missing parents and in particular a mother whom he was wrongly led to believe was dead. Deprived of a loving parent and the truth about his family, this man lives his life in purgatory.

‘it is worth bearing in mind that in many western countries religious orders and religious institutions were very powerful.’

The bravery of those involved in bringing to light these horrific events must be lauded and it is worth bearing in mind that in many western countries religious orders and religious institutions were very powerful. Untold physical and psychological damage was inflicted on tens of thousands of innocent children. All of whom had no say in the fate that befell them.

Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson) And Len (David Wenham) In Oranges And Sunshine

The power of religious groups in the 1980’s is not something to be underestimated. In countries such as Ireland, the Catholic Church and its orders ruled with an iron fist. It is only in recent years that people have begun to question a culture which permits such serious abuse.

‘Sadly this story is still repeating itself in the developing world’

Oranges and Sunshine is a lesson in what happens when you outsource morality to other, unchecked, parties. Sadly this story is still repeating itself in the developing world with some religious institutions abusing children in places such as Africa. It seems that some lessons are harder to learn than others.

Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson) And Len (David Wenham) In Oranges And Sunshine

No reason is given in the film as to what sort of thought processes were occurring in the minds of those in charge of the deportations. Undoubtedly, no rationale could ever justify such actions.

Ken Loach’s movie is a fitting tribute to the people that were affected. It gives a lasting voice to a people that were once voiceless.


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