Saturday, 24 September 2011


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In 2010, the Australian government apologised to the 'forgotten generation': hundreds of thousands of men and women who, as children of post-World War II Britain, were shipped out to Australia to begin new lives under the "protection" of various Christian charities.

It was the early 1980s when this government sanctioned but clandestine mass migration of children was brought to the attention of British social worker Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson). Humphreys discovered that these children, who had been made wards of the State, were told that their parents were dead or had abandoned them when they had not.

Travelling between England and Australia to help some of these now-adult children uncover their roots, Humphreys also learns that several of them had suffered a multitude of abuses, from neglect to rape, at the hands of their carers. Suddenly Humphreys' mission becomes not just about reconciliation but one of justice.

Director Jim Loach (son of esteemed director, Ken Loach) takes a rather prosaic approach to this material with Watson providing a strong anchor for the film, successfully avoiding the cliches and pitfalls of the 'crusading woman' film. But the film is not without emotion - how could it be? - provided by the stories of abuse of the children now recounted as men to Margaret.

Hugo Weaving is particularly impressive as a man who has been searching for his mother his entire life, and equally as good but not so easy to read is David Wenham's Len. Having survived his Christian Brothers upbringing and "repaying his debt" to them, Len engages in a somewhat antagonistic partnership with Humphreys to uncover his past and, in doing so, helps her come to terms with not only what she's uncovered but what she's achieved.

In what has been a solid year for Australian film, Oranges and Sunshine is, for mine, the second best local film of 2011; behind Snowtown and, yes, ahead of Red Dog.


  1. I thought this tackled a really important topic, and Emily Watson was good, but it was a dull film. For me it stands as Snowtown, Red Dog and then daylight for the Australian Film of the Year. Haha.

  2. I think if this was an American film the treatment would have been completely different, playing up the "crusading woman" element. But I agree that Loach's approach is a little too low-key, yet the emotions still come through. Maybe The Cup will overlap all 3 Oz films to be the best?