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September 2011

Oranges And Sunshine

cast: Emily Watson, David Wenham, Molly Windsor, Tara Morice, and Hugo Weaving

director: Jim Loach

101 minutes (15) 2010
widescreen ratio 2.40:1
Icon DVD Region 2

RATING: 5/10
review by Gary Couzens

Oranges And Sunshine

Oranges And Sunshine is based on a true story. Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson), a Nottingham social worker, by chance stumbles on a secret that the British government had kept since the war: the secret that 130,000 children had been deported to Commonwealth countries, mainly Australia. Often told that their parents were dead, they were promised a new life of "oranges and sunshine," but the reality was one of hardship and abuse. Margaret gave herself the task of reuniting as many families as she could, in the face of sometimes violent opposition. This work continues to this day.

This is a feature film debut from Jim Loach, son of Ken. With second-generation filmmakers, as with writers and musicians with celebrated parents, it's often hard to judge the son or daughter's work from that of the father or mother. Oranges And Sunshine makes this more difficult in that it one of the production companies (Sixteen Films) involved is that which makes Loach senior's work, and the scriptwriter, Rona Munro, has also worked with the elder Loach in the past. So comparisons between the work of father and son are not only inevitable but have hardly been avoided either.

Secondly, a film is not just its subject matter. While what happened to the migrant children was certainly appalling, leaving scars which will no doubt never heal, such material does not mean one should overlook the film's shortcomings. Oranges And Sunshine is one-paced for the most part and flatly directed. It's certainly well-acted - with that cast, how could it not be? - and Denson Baker's scope camerawork (partly shot in South Australia, with Adelaide standing in for Perth) does more to hold the film together than Loach's direction does. But overall this film belongs in the 'worthy but dull' category.

Icon's DVD is encoded for region two, only. Shot in 3-perf Super 35, Oranges And Sunshine is transferred to DVD in the intended ratio of 2.40:1 and the soundtrack is in Dolby digital 5.1 with English hard-of-hearing subtitles available. Disc extras: a commentary by Jim Loach and Rona Munro; Stolen Childhoods (22 minutes), a record of the events of 24 February 2010 when both the UK and Australia apologised to the child migrants; interviews with Emily Watson and Hugo Weaving (11 minutes); a Q&A (42 minutes) - after a showing at the BFI Southbank, London - which begins with a few minutes of someone setting up microphones as the credits roll on the screen behind; and a gallery of archive photographs with captions.



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