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I caught this film as part of the Glasgow Film Festival and I'm glad that I did. Knowing very little of the story about the the organised deportation of children in care from the United Kingdom to Australia, I found much of this film was shocking and upsetting. This film concentrates on Margaret Humphrys, the social worker who uncovers this scandal. Under her own steam and then with the support of her employer, Margaret discovers that more than just a few children were deported. She makes it her mission to help those deportees who wish to find out about the families they were forced to leave behind. This proves to be no easy task as the British government stonewall her and provide no help with the details of the deportees or their families. No deliberate attempt is made to overplay the injustice or high emotions running through the story; it is told in a simple, straightforward and affecting manner and it is all the more powerful for that. Take some time out and go and see this film as it's one that deserves a wide audience and stay to the end as that's when the viewer finds out when an apology for this very sad situation was given.
Carronas' review could not be more wrong! She could not even get the directors name right. It's JIM not LEN Loach, and the rest of the review is just as inaccurate. I had no trouble following the story line even without any prior knowledge of the events. I had no trouble understanding where each scene was set, be it UK or Oz, it was perfectly clear which was which. The film stock helped to give that dated feel of the 1980's and this was further enhanced by the vehicles, furniture and fashions. The lack of dialogue in certain scenes (meeting the Brothers) added tension where words would have added nothing. This was an excellent film, well filmed and well acted. See it and enjoy.
I saw this truly extraordinary film last night ... and know now that it will be with me for a long time to come. The story is totally compelling and the acting is superb! Emily Watson is always a wonder to watch and she does some of her finest work here -- perhaps her best performance ever. The supporting players are, without exception, highly gifted and each finds his or her character to the point where you feel, at times, that you are watching a documentary, so fine are their portrayals. Based on the true experiences of social worker Margaret Humphreys (that will leave you with your mouth agape often)and with a beautifully written script that moves briskly ... and, at many turns, into frightening territory, with terrific direction, this is a must-see! Put it on your list! If there is any justice, this one will figure when the awards are handed out!
A quietly angry, lightly fictionalized film detailing the systematic,
organized UK government sanctioned deportation of up to 150,000
children, often as young as three to Australia, South Africa, New
Zealand and Zimbabwe.
In case you were under the assumption that this occurred in the dark ages, you would be wrong. The last cases are recorded in the late 1960's and early 1970's.
Emily Watson plays Margaret Humphreys the tireless Nottinghamshire social worker, who stumbled across an isolated case and then fought almost single-handedly to undercover the truth. Creating the "Child Migrants" trust by necessity to reunite lost families, sometimes decades later and in many cases too late.
The film is based on the the book "Empty Cradles" written by Humphreys to highlight the plight of the families and children involved and raise much needed funds.
Not only were children sent to countries alien to them, in the majority of cases without parental consent or even with the parents knowledge, many were told incorrectly their parents had died leaving them as orphans. Brothers and sisters were systematically split up and many endured harsh conditions, being treated as slave labour and subject to both mental and in many cases physical and sexual abuse, often at the hands of those supposedly charged with their care and well being.
As in many such cases, the Church and charitable organizations, when confronted with the proof of the neglect they oversaw, denied the charges and repeatedly attempted to frustrate attempts to drag the secret into the light.
Eventually in 2010 the UK Government formally apologised for the migrants treatment, finally acknowledging the mistakes that had been made.
Bearing in mind the shocking truths on display, does the film need to be any good? Directed by small screen veteran Jim Loach, this is a sympathetic account with quality naturalistic acting from all of the cast, in particular Watson and Hugo Weaving an adult sent as a child to Australia for "Sunshine and Oranges". Humphreys long suffering and supportive husband deserves a medal of some description as his wife continues to travel the world putting wrongs right or at least allowing closure, seemingly with little regard for her own safety, mental or physical health.
The film resembles "Magdalene Sisters", all the more effective for the lack of moralizing, preaching and sentimentality, apart from one off key line "You got my Mum for Christmas", the dialogue and acting are pitch perfect.
There are always concerns as to how fictionalized true stories are, certainly the facts are undeniable, all films compress time, alter circumstances and timelines. The most important factor is, does the film capture the spirit and feel, this does just that.
A stirring, largely truthful re-telling of an important story in our recent past, not an easy watch in parts but well worth the time to be aware of this travesty, compounded by the initial failure of anyone brave enough to take responsibility for what had occurred.
Watson embodies the spirit of Humphreys who quite rightly eventually received recognition for all her efforts.
Should anyone ever question the value of the film industry then the
innocently titled "Oranges and Sunshine" is a film that, on its own,
could quite easily justify its existence.
Whilst the acting, production and direction are superb, the film's dark subject matter overshadows all, and its disturbing revelations require no dramatisation. As the psychological damage caused to a whole generation of "stolen" children becomes clear, it is difficult to comprehend the sheer immensity of the systematic betrayal of trust suffered by a staggering number of British families, and perpetrated by those in authority who should have known better.
"Oranges and Sunshine" covers a mere handful of tragic stories in various ways, all very effective. These stories expose a truly shameful episode in British history, and the way in which those affected adapted to their fate - with varying degrees of success. What is clear though is that for better or worse, this childhood experience has indelibly marked them for the rest of their lives.
Although the children who were torn away from their mothers may not have been marshalled roughly onto rail wagons, on a one way trip to oblivion, a very clear parallel can be drawn between the ghastly regime in Nazi Germany, and the ghastly regimes that allowed this despicable scheme to continue, and which do not appear, from the facts as depicted in this film, to have been brought to account.
The parallel is that when good men and women fall silent, and no-one challenges the systemic abuse of power by those in authority, then the arrogant, the incompetent, the weak-willed, the lazy and, indeed, the downright evil, triumph.
To me that is the enduring message of this brilliant yet incredibly sad film. It is a repeated lesson we seem incapable of learning, no matter how many times emotionally evocative films like this attempt to remind us.
Sarah's Key was critically lauded for its reliable method of evoking
raw anguish in its audience by depicting the trauma of a savage
injustice from a child's perspective. In the same year, Jim Loach's
feature drama handles the similar material of an scandal that's just
about on par with the Vel d'Hiv roundup, but the film's subjects are
all well into adulthood by the time we are meeting them. The fact that
the victims are always shown as adults (in physical form at least) has
given the achievement of pulling off this excellent film a higher
degree of difficulty, seeing as the actors and screenplay writers are
required to work extra hard to win the audience's sympathy, rather than
having the simple forgivable innocence of an actual child on screen
doing the job. However, this is not to say that Sarah's Key was mere
emotional pornography: it found excellent ways of challenging itself in
other aspects which gave it a greater level of sophistication, but in
terms of expressing the heartbreak, the feat of Oranges and Sunshine is
much more remarkable.
Among the topics being explored here is the very complicated issue of adoption. The burdensome puzzle of how a child in an unstable family situation or an unhealthy state of living should receive professional help whether such interference is truly protecting their best interests or inflicting deep psychological harm by depriving them of family has long been troubling child protection authorities. In mid- twentieth-century England, the popular solution settled on was the organised deportation of these children to Australia. Told that they were orphans, with no living relatives to care for them, they would be sent over in large numbers and, once there, sold into slavery for a respected church organisation commonly refferrred to as "The Brothers".
Several decades later, a determined social worker from Nottingham has begun to single-handedly reunite the victims of the outrage with their family back in England. As they relate to her their heartwrenching stories, each with their own despicable atrocities on top of what has already been mentioned, the irreparable damage of being raised without a proper family becomes apparent, and they are reduced to miserable, vulnerable, homesick little children. Its frequent mentioning of mothers, its claim that the wound of lost parents will never truly heal, and the fact that most of the victims shown are boys creates very distinct allusions to Peter Pan, even before that similarity is actually mentioned by one of the people. An additional noticeable parallel between this film and another classic story is the idea of a child suffering lonesomely at the hands of a cruel organisation under the sneaky pretense that they are an orphan, which is reminiscent of Oliver Twist.
However, it would be grossly unfair to just cynically dissect this film using only comparisons: it displays a very impressive divergence from the typical conspiracy drama. Its most prominent asset is the fully- fledged characterisation of its activist hero and the equal attention spent on showing her suffering as well that of her clients. The delightful Emily Watson obviously does a great deal to bring her to life, playing her so brilliantly that she comes across as both perfectly likable and humanly multi-faceted. Hearing such painful stories is incredibly taxing, and the growing unpopularity she is gaining as she stirs the government and the press results in some truly terrifying personal attacks while she is staying in Australia, but as the authorities are refusing to assist her, she knows that she must not allows herself to withdraw from her mission as no one else will be willing to pick it up. She does, of course, also become estranged from her family as the task begins to consume her, but thankfully not instantly, allowing the satisfying realism to remain intact.
Also a relief is that a handful of the people she is helping are actually showing genuine gratitude and returning the favour by giving her personal assistance. The friendships she forms with these people are truly touching, and effectively lighten the situation for both the hero (Margaret) and the audience.
With a very capable supporting cast, featuring David Wenham, Hugo Weaving and Tara Morice (Strictly Ballroom), in the roles of the victims and Margaret's family, this is a highly commendable and worthwhile piece of filmmaking, let down only by the rather repetitive nature of the script, if anything.
Oranges and Sunshine is directed by Jim Loach and adapted to screenplay
by Rona Munro from the book "Empty Cradles", written by Margaret
Humphreys. It stars Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham and
Richard Dillane. Music is by Lisa Gerrard and cinematography by Denson
Baker. The film tells the true story of Margaret Humphreys (Watson), a
Nottingham social worker who in 1986 began uncovering the scandal of
forced child migration from the UK to various countries of the
Commonwealth. Thousands upon thousands of children who were either from
poor families or orphaned, were sent to British colonies under a banner
of lies. Where instead of the oranges and sunshine they were expecting,
they were put to work as hard labour and suffered terrible conditions
to live in as well as abuse at the hands of their carers.
Lost Children Of The Empire.
It's a story ripe for exploitation, for a bit of shock cinema, the kind that assaults you with horrific images, but Oranges and Sunshine is a rare beast, a true life horror tale that accentuates the outrage by remaining understated and steady in sombre tone. This is expert film making from Loach (son of Ken), letting the story unfold with a naturalism that makes it a deeply moving experience. No histrionic characterisations by the actors, no grandstanding speeches or attempts to paint Margaret Humphreys as an armour plated crusader risking death at every turn. It's cold, yet humane, in its telling, the pain of story etched on the faces of the lost children, now adults searching for identity and a family thread to stitch it together. The emotional uplift of the reunion scenes gladdens the heart, but never once does the film proclaim, like its wonderful protagonist, that what has been lost can be replaced. But identity is comforting, the fragmented pieces of childhoods ruined finally piecing themselves together.
Who was crucified huh? You tell me that.
Thankfully the makers resist, rightly, the urge to show flashback scenes of the children suffering. We know just by dialogue exchanges and character reactions, just what pain and misery was bestowed upon these minors. Yet the film is full of powerful scenes that really grip and hold the heart, where quite often they are just quiet conversations, a statement made or a question asked. Or even in silence for one truly potent sequence as Margaret visits Bindoon Boys Town in Western Australia, an imposing, but elegant structure on the outside, but that elegance belies the terrible crimes perpetrated by the cleric elders within. Loach and his team don't need tricks or historical tampering to make their film dramatic and worthy, the story sells itself on both counts.
Oh, baby, baby, it's a wild world.
Picture is propelled by a wonderfully restrained performance by Watson. A perfect bit of casting, Watson never screams for our sympathies, she hits the right emotional notes required, but never strains to get there, she plays Margaret as a bastion of decency. She deftly blends stoicism with vulnerability as Margaret juggles the emotional strains of the search with that of the safe haven of her family home that she is away from for long periods. Watson is surrounded by three damn fine male performances. Weaving and Wenham as the "lost boys" underpin the story, they perfectly embody the crushing of the childhood spirit, a two pronged acting show that says so much for the thousands of children who were cruel victims of the child migration schemes. Dillane scores high as Margaret's husband, he perfectly understands the tone of the movie and turns in a respectful and appropriate performance as Margaret's loving crutch.
It's not all perfect, Margaret is met with some resistance and finds herself in a couple of tricky situations, but the evil nature of the wrong-doers never fully surfaces to give her a formidable foe to respond too. Nor is anyone made accountable for their heinous crimes, something which leaves a frustrating taste in the mouth. However, the point of the movie, the attention brought to the story it's about and the skill with which said story is told, ensures that these are just minor quibbles in one of the best movies of the year. 9/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a story of the organised deportation to Australia of over
120,000 British children since the late 1890s until the 1960s. It is a
must-see for people of our generation, if only to gain some insight
into what some of our forebears had to endure.
Emily Watson - if she weren't such an accomplished actress - would make a fine counsellor/social worker. She shines in the lead role and the scene where she wakes up with breathing difficulties is very moving - she literally has the weight of all the people on that deported list on her compassionate heart. Hugo Weaving is deeply moving as the man who all his life wanted only to see his mother again. David Wenham's Len provides the only relief as the boy-made-good who finds his mum and begins a relationship with her.
Watch it and consider how lucky you are.
It is always a jolt when a bit of buried history surfaces and makes us
realize that the world is not all that sane as we would like to
believe: the Chaos Factor raises its ugly head as in this screen
adaptation by Rona Munro of Margaret Humphreys' true story book 'Empty
Cradles'. This is a very powerful film, all the more so because of the
quality of acting and direction by Jim Loach who never lets the film
run out of control despite the unveiling tragedy.
The story is set in the 1980s where Nottingham, social worker Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson) is a social worker who encounters a middle aged woman who has traveled form Australia to find her birth parents. Margaret at first doesn't want to increase her workload with a wild tale of children having been deported form England by ship to be placed in orphanage work camps in Australia, but with the aid of her supportive husband Merv (Richard Dillane) she begins to investigate the uncovered secret, ultimately traveling to Australia where she meets the 'unwanted children' as adults each longing to return to the UK to meet their families. The children when deported were as young as four to thirteen years old and had been told their parents either were dead or didn't want them and the representatives from the government promised them a safe home with 'oranges and sunshine' in Australia. There are several 'victims' as played by Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Russell Dykstra and others who help personalize the unspoken crime until Margaret progresses to the point where she can hold the British government accountable for child migration schemes and reunite the children involved -- now adults living mostly in Australia -- with their parents in Britain. Though the deportations occurred from the 1940's through the 1970's it was only after Margaret Humphrey's 1994 book and then much later after when February 2010 Great Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown finally issued a full apology to those deported children and their families.
The supporting cast is uniformly excellent but it is the glowing performance by Emily Watson that makes this revelation of a film remain in the mind long after the credits explain how the solution played out in reality. This is a tough film but an important one and deserves a much larger audience than it has found.
Oranges and Sunshine CATCH IT (B+) The film tells the story of Margaret Humphreys, a social worker from Nottingham who uncovered the scandal of "home children", a scheme of forcibly relocating poor children from the UK to Australia and Canada. Margaret reunites estranged families and brings worldwide attention to the cause. Deported children were promised oranges and sunshine but they got hard labor and life of misery and sexual abuse in institutions such as Keaney College in Bindoon, Western Australia. (Wiki) Oranges and Sunshine is a sensitive subject matter which defiantly put Britain in Shame when Margaret Humphreys broke out the story in 80s. Emily Watson's portrayal of Margaret Humphreys' trouble to help the transported kids all the way to Australia is heart wrenching. The emotional turmoil she goes to work for them while managing her family is something really inspiring. Emily Watson is a great actress and no doubt she brings her emotional range to the real life role model. In supporting cast Hugo Weaving & David Wenhem did a fine job. Overall, it's a sensitive movie about a sensitive issue. Keep in mind its tear jerker, so keep a box of tissue.
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