Review: Oranges and Sunshine

Based on real events, Oranges and Sunshine gives a deeply moving account of the deportation of thousands of British children to Australia.

Between 1947 and 1979 up to 130,000 British children were deported to different institutions around Australia, unbeknown to their families.

The film centres on Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson) a British social worker who discovered the illegal deportation while investigating a genealogy case in the mid-1980s.

Set against the backdrop of outback Australia and rainy cold Britain, director Jim Loach paints the perfect picture of the life the children faced.

The film follows Margaret and her frequent journeys between the two countries, as she tries to find the children (now adults) to give them back their real identities and reunite them with the families they were taken from.

Similar to Rabbitproof Fence, the film goes deep into the inhumane uprooting of children, touching on the sensitive stories about the treatment they received while they were in the care of churches.

Australian actors David Wenham and Hugo Weaving portray convincing deportees and even as opposite as both characters are, their stories are told with such compassion, it’s hard not to be moved by the emptiness that the children must have felt.

Emily Watson’s excellent portrayal of Margaret Humphreys is so fierce and powerful, you find yourself reassured that she will successfully reunite the “lost children of the Empire” with an identity and their families.

As the film progresses, and the media interest begins to build, Margaret is faced with anonymous physical threats, strain on her family and increasing health issues.

Jumping from case to case and back and forth between Australia and Britain, it’s easy to lose track of events. But the film captivates the audience with the sad tales of children who were promised “oranges and sunshine” but instead received hard labour and life in institutions.

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