Monday, June 13, 2011

Oranges and Sunshine (2010)

Australia has had a very rough past, from our convict settlement days, bush rangers, the stolen generation and our general mistreatment of the indigenous population, we certainly don't have a lot to be proud of. Oranges and Sunshine brings to the screen another often unheard story of our sordid past in the form of the "home children" scandal. As early as 1816 the British Isles had a habit of relocating children to the varying colonies of which they were assosiated for use as labourers. Oft times these children were no more than just slaves with very few being given a loving family environment or any form of education.

In 1987 social worker Margaret Humphrey's uncovered material that would lead to the exposure of the British child migration scheme that saw some 7000 children sent to Australian children's homes, institutions, orphanages or foster care, many of whom were lied to and experienced neglect and abuse while in institutional care.

The film focuses on the first few years of Margaret's discovery of child migration to the setup of the child migrants trust and the continued work and commitment she displayed despite the cost to her personal health and the time away from her family.

As usual with films of this nature, I am not sure how much of the drama is artistic license or based in fact and I am not sure how much of a hand the real Margaret Humphrey's or any of the former children may have had in the production of the film. With that said, the film is remarkably restrained in its telling of a situation that could very easily have been over-dramatised and instead lets the story and characters speak for themselves.

There are some very impressive performances from all involved. Emily Watson truly carries the weight of the pain and suffering she hears about and the psychical change is quite visible as the film progresses. Hugo Weaving and David Wenham give two very different performances both revealing how each of their characters has dealt with what has happened to them over the years and the way in which they deal with that on a day to day basis.

For a first time director Jim Loach has clearly learnt a lot from his father Ken and his next project will certainly be one to look forward to.

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