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Oranges and Sunshine


Stars: Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Tara Morice, Richard Dillane, Clayton Watson

Director: Jim Loach

An interesting, sometimes moving, but not always compelling account of the Nottingham social worker (Watson) who uncovered the appalling scandal of the organised deportation of children in care from England to Australia between the 1940s and 1970 - 300,000 of them in all. Promised oranges and sunshine, the majority were subjected instead to slave labour and appalling abuse in 'homes' run by religious institutions.

Margaret Humphreys is first alerted to this shameful episode in the two countries' history in 1986, when she is accosted by an Australian woman (Federay Holmes) looking for the mother she lost 30 years previously. Margaret eventually locates the mother (Kate Rutter) who tells her how she went to see her illegitimate new-born daughter, 'but they told me she'd been adopted'.

Through the story of another woman, Nicky (Lorraine Ashbourne) who has recently found her long-lost brother Jack (Weaving), Margaret heads for Australia, and begins to devote her life to finding the parents of the 'lost' children. Opposition to her is fierce and sometimes violent, while the stories told by those who suffered oppression, beatings and sometimes even rape at the hands of their custodians are heartrending.

One man, Len (Wenham), a self-made millionaire, and former deportee child, is sceptical, and proves difficult to get close to, but eventually becomes a valuable friend. And, even after coming close to a breakdown, and suffering post traumatic stress disorder, Margaret forges on in the face of unsympathetic authority.

Though the film is well-acted and occasionally touches the heart, it's inevitably fragmentary and rambling in its narrative and director Loach (son of Ken) does well to hold it together as much as he does. All in all, it's a story worth telling that would beggar belief if it weren't true.

David Quinlan

UK/Australia 2010. UK Distributor: Icon . Fujicolor.
99 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 27 Mar 2011