Oranges and Sunshine
Autumn 2011 Features series
Sunday, October 9, 2011 at 4:00pm
Sunday, October 9, 2011 at 7:00pm
Directed by Jim Loach
Screenplay by Rona Munro
Starring Hugo Weaving, David Wenham and Emily Watson
Rated NR ·
United Kingdom / Australia
Oranges and Sunshine
This first feature by UK director Jim Loach (son of acclaimed director Ken Loach) tells the story of Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson), a social worker from Nottingham, who in the 1980s uncovered one of the most significant social scandals in recent times. She learns that thousands of children in the care of British Social Services were illegally and silently deported from the United Kingdom to Australia in the 1940s. Many of these children were removed from the care of single mothers or homes that were deemed “unfit,” and told that their parents were dead. They were then shipped across the ocean with the promise of “oranges and sunshine” only to be abandoned in church-run orphanages where they were neglected, forced into hard labour and brutally abused.
Almost singlehandedly, against overwhelming odds and with little regard for her own well-being, Margaret advocates for the victims of this atrocity of justice with unflinching resolve, courage and integrity. She travels to Australia and works closely with these deeply scarred individuals, helping them to find the answers that they so desperately seek. She also works to reunite what is left of their geographically dispersed families, at times at the expense of her own.
Through a fury of media attention, Margaret tells the stories of the victims to the world. She serves as a voice for those too ashamed to speak out and perhaps most importantly, she feels for those who are too numb to feel the pain for themselves. As the media attention grows and a government inquiry is opened, Margaret begins to face harassment and death threats from those accused, yet she unflinchingly continues to champion the cause.
The film’s tone is subtle and restrained, dealing with explicit accounts of abuse and raw emotions without sensationalizing the story through graphic flashbacks. This subtlety extends to the film’s unsaturated aesthetic, understated score and measured performances. Emily Watson (Punch Drunk Love, Gosford Park) gives a deeply nuanced portrayal of Margaret laden with compassionate solemnity. Oranges and Sunshine is a beautiful meditation on a very ugly part of Commonwealth history.