I hadnt actually heard of this film until I was browsing on Netflix early yesterday morning. I often watch a film at silly o'clock in the morning because for the rest of the day I find I dont really have time to watch films and I do like to watch films and I do feel that they can be informative on a number of subjects but also allow you to learn a little more about other cultures or historical events etc. Oranges and Sunshine is actually based on a true story which was first made public in a book by Margaret Humphreys and it tells her story. As I watched this on Netflix it is a film only review.
Margaret is a social worker. She loves her work and though very difficult at times she does like to feel that she is helping people and where possible she works hard in order to allow families to either remain intact or be reunited. At home, her life is quite different, she is married to Merv who is a wonderful man and supports her in everything she does. They have two children and Merv is keen to help out with them. Quite frankly, she couldnt wish for anything more in a man.
After a group meeting during which those who were adopted meet together to share their stories, Margaret is accosted by a young Australian woman. The woman begs her to help her and reels off a story about how she was born in England but shipped off to Australia when she was younger. Margaret tells her to call into her office later on in the week but the woman is insistent she listens now as she doesnt have much to help her find out who she is. Margaret finds the womans story a little far fetched and doesnt really take it seriously, believing that the woman must have a patchy memory from when she was younger.
However, the next time Margaret attends the meeting another woman who is a regular attendee of the group begins to talk about her brother, Jim. She tells a very similar story to the story the Australian woman had told Margaret previously which gets Margaret thinking...surely this cant be pure coincidence that two children have the same recollection?
The film has a strong opening and I think it is important to note how happy Margaret is in her home life and how difficult at times she finds her job for example when a baby is removed from the care of her mother you can see that Margaret is finding it very hard and this helps to reinforce the idea that Margaret is a caring, kind and gentle person who tries to help anyone as best that she can.
As soon as Margaret hears the Australian womans story it is clear to see that it is playing on her mind regardless of how far fetched it seems. When the woman from her group reinforces the story it is clear to see that Margaret feels very agitated and decides she must find out what on earth went on. At this point I felt that the film really picked up pace. It made us feel as though we were actually with Margaret accompanying her wherever she went to try and find out more about these children.
This case was similar to many things that people want to keep quiet about to ensure nobody finds out - there was very little evidence to support the stories and whats more, there was nobody who knew anything about the cases. The way this is depicted throughout the film really helps to aid our understanding of Margarets character and I felt very frustrated that nobody appeared to care and nobody was willing to help her. Luckily, Margaret is a strong minded woman and she continues her battle with the help of Merv but it is easy to see how many others would have given up.
The plot was interesting and intriguing and it flowed very well. It followed a chronological order and this allowed me to really understand what was happening and also by doing this it made me feel as though I really knew Margaret and could empathise with exactly how she was feeling. Although on first glance it seemed as though the film wasnt particularly fast paced it actually was once the story became deeper. The film was very interesting and I found that I was hooked from the start. I think this was aided by the fact that this was based on a true story because I personally hadn't heard anything about these cases and therefore I felt it was a good way to learn a little more about our countries history though of course this is not a documentary and it is a film based on memoirs but it does allow you to learn a little if you take everything with a pinch of salt.
I thought the acting in the film was very strong. I had seen most of the characters in other films or TV dramas and as a result of this I thought I might see them as previous characters but this was not the case at all. Emily Watson plays Margaret who I was familiar with from the drama last year on ITV1 about Fred West 'Appropriate Adult'. I think that Emily does really well in roles like this that involve her problem solving and decision making.
I believe that the film was very thought out but I cannot comment on its truthfulness to the book as I have not read it though I think I may well get myself a copy after watching the film because I did find it a very interesting story.
The film was released in 2010 with the DVD following in 2011.
It runs for 96 minutes.
It is directed by Jim Loach.
It was written by Margaret Humphreys (book) and Rona Munro (screenplay).
It stars Emily Watson.
I thought this was a very strong film and I enjoyed watching it. I found it interesting and captivating and it really is a story that gets you hooked from the beginning. I would definitely recommend this film.
Star - Emily Watson
Genre - True Story
Run Time - 96 minutes
Country - UK/Australia
Social workers are in the news again. The Prime Minister has pledged to sweep away the prejudice involved in the adoption system and, where suitable, allow far more white parents to adopt ethnic minority children than currently the case, something scorned upon by 'lefty 'social workers. They don't seem to like middle-class people's motives in wanting a baby not of their skin color and some how feel the child will lose its culture and identity if they do hand over all the ethnic minority children to the suburbs. Presumably the same social workers think these kids would rather stay in care or live in a Hackney tower block than be in a proper loving family, the divisiveness of the adoption system the subject of this rather revealing true story.
It's the story of real life Nottingham social worker, Margaret Humphries, who, in the 1980s, discovered that local authorities had been taking kids into care on the most tenuous excuse and exporting them to Commonwealth countries to start a new life, right up until 1970s, without their parents knowledge, some of the kids ending up being abused and corrupted in all manner of organizations overseas. It was pretty radical social engineering and may still have been going on today in some form if it wasn't for Margaret Humphries tenacity and courage to find out more, the last cases discovered as late as 1982. Reasons to take children away from parents in the old days were very different to they are today. Under Blair and New Labor everything was done on cost reasons and so kids kept with often abusive parents and so Baby P deaths common, whereas just after the war being a single parent or too promiscuous was enough to lose your children to social services. Up to 140,000 British children were put on this scheme over the 120 years of its existence. Can you imagine the compensation payouts today if it was still happening?
The star of the show is Emily Watson, not that Hermione bird from the Harry Potter films, that's Emma Watson, but the rather familiar English Rose from films like Breaking the Waves and Hilary and Jackie, a woman I have had a crush on for ages, three previous girlfriends looking uncomfortably like here. She has the cutest blue eyes and little nose you could ever see and you just want to pinch it with your finger and thumb and give it a squiggle! She has been nominated for two Oscars and highly respected but has become this jobbing actress of late as the more glamorous Kate Winsletts and Keira Knightly's have long since rolled up the darkened windows in the limos and driven off into the sunshine with the big awards and kudos she has been denied. Emily Watson is a very good actress and deserves stronger scripts than this.
Hugo Weaving ... Jack
Emily Watson ... Margaret Humphreys
David Wenham ... Len
Tara Morice ... Pauline
Aisling Loftus ... Susie
Stuart Wolfenden ... Bill
Lorraine Ashbourne ... Nicky
Geoff Morrell ... Walter
Margaret Humphreys (Watson) is a Child Protection Officer for Nottingham Borough Council, where, on a post adoption meeting for adults, she meets an Australia woman, Nicola (Lorraine Ashbourne), who claims not to know where she was born and who her mother was and needs help to find out. Rather coincidentally, Margaret is also in correspondence with a woman in Australia, Madeline, with a similar tale, trying to find her blood mother in Nottingham, where she knows she was born but was separated from for unknown reasons and shipped off to Australia as a kid.
Margret is curious about the cases and decides to investigate, her professor husband Mervyn keen to help, the two quickly discovering that quite a few kids were sent out there from all of Britain's major cities to help 'seed' the new world with white children, kids often abused when they got there and used as cheap labor, the church, as you would expect, particular keen to get hold of the young ones, Australia, Canada and New Zealand all involved in the scheme run covertly by the government.
As Margaret digs deeper her discoveries begin to generate media and TV coverage, the kids often told their mums had died or were in prison so they signed wavers aboard to ever know who they were, thousands sent out to the colonies from the Midlands alone.
It's agreed with her boss that this is important work for the council and she should dedicate herself to the project to try, where possible, get the mums back with their children, and give two years and appropriate funding to make it work. This will involve trips to Australia and lots of tears but Margaret up for the challenge. But on her first visit to Australia it's obvious the country is not happy with the bad publicity she drags off the carousel at Adelaide Airport and soon on her own. But some Aussies do want her to succeed, help coming from an unexpected source, that of obnoxious South Australian Len (David Wenham), he, too, a mum short, sent deep into the Gibson Desert with other many other kids to be forced labor at a Catholic Monastery, and with nowhere to run.
The question now is just how many people are willing to be matched up with their mums in England and just how many are there in Australia, the numbers climbing by the day, this scheme clearly been going on for a very long time with both the British and Australian government fully involved.
Well it's not bad but no more than that, probably why you haven't heard of it. For director Jim Loach's $4,500,000 budget it looks authentic enough although it stands completely on Watson's performance and becomes that and little more. As with most of these 'based on a true story' heart string pullers the real people involved are no where near as cute as the actors who play them and that takes away slightly here. Would the beautiful Emily Watson be a social worker in Nottingham? No. If you're going to do an authentic film on such an emotive subject then maybe a softer cast was required so the subject and not the actors become the point of interest. I understand that Hugo Weaving and Emily Watson were cast as that brings in the required funding in the English/Australia film partnership but it just needed less twee acting and someone more authoritative and sassy in Watsons lead role, say a Kathy Bates or Judy Dench. And some of the scenes in the film are not tat accurate, like when Margaret points out her discovery to her Nottingham council line manager and she decides to give her two years on the job with full funding and no questions asked. I suspect the social workers reading this would chuckle at that amicable cooperation.
With solid pacing and consistent performances the film tries to pull you in but it just doesn't have enough heart for you to really care for these people. They are all grown up and
living with their demons and clearly more Aussie than English, many doing well for themselves, the apathy of their upbringing making them better people, it seems. I think there life back in Nottingham with their single moms and sink estates would have been far worse and so you find it hard to sympathize with the films truths. We dont get to hear who was found to account either in the government. The forced child evictions were something Australia and Britain didn't want to talk about and it's a film, it seems, the public didn't want to see, either. Sometimes the facts can get in the way of the drama, and that's the central problem here. Fans of Emily Watson should watch it as she is still gorgeous at 45.
Imdb.com - scores it 7.1/10.0 (1,456 votes)
Metacritic.com - 60% critics approval rating
Rottentomatos.com - 70% critics approval rating
Chicago Sun Times - "Emily Watson, a delicate English rose, has never seemed more sturdy than here"
The Sun - "Jim Loach's feature debut presents the horrific injustice of forced child migration in a calm, measured manner"
Boston Globe - "The sincerity of feeling is unmistakable. So's the flat-footedness of the writing".
Chicago Globe -"The result is a problem drama with more problem than drama"
The Telegraph -"Once, very early on, the secret deportations have been exposed there aren't many new places for the film to go - just more scenes of an increasingly tired-looking Emily Watson trudging around with an armful of file folders".
Jim Loach talks about is film
Cast & Crew and some of the real people involved chat away to an audience at a Q&A.
Cast & Crew talking heads piece.