Ken Loach has become synonymous with the genre of social realism. Essentially these are films with uncompromising depictions of the everyday struggles of everyday people (Sweet Sixteen, My Name is Joe, etc.).
His son, Jim Loach, is following in his father’s footsteps with his first feature, Oranges and Sunshine. Like his father’s films, it is an uncompromising and emotive film about an important issue most people are unaware of.
The film is based on the real-life story of Margaret Humphreys (Emily Watson), a social worker from Nottingham. She is working to support adults who were adopted as children. One evening she is confronted by Charlotte, who claims she was shipped off to Australia as a child to be put into a care home. Left with no record of her parents, she asks Margaret to help her find her mother.
She then finds out one of the members of her support group has a brother, Jack, who was also shipped off to Australia as a child. Margaret visits Australia, and speaks to adults who grew up in the same care home as Jack. She discovers many of them have exactly the same story as Jack and Charlotte. They were all shipped off to Australia with no record of who they were.
Margaret starts investigating how widespread these deportations were and discovers it was common enough that it must have been unofficial government policy in the 1950s and 1960s.
Oranges and Sunshine is a highly emotional film about people who simply want to find out who they are. It completely relies on the power of its story to keep its audience engaged. The cinematography, direction and score all sit quietly against the power and tragedy of what’s happened in these people’s lives.
Emily Watson gives a superb performance as Margaret, a character who is inspiringly committed to finding the identities of so many forgotten children. As she gets more and more involved with these hurt and troubled adults, we see the impact hearing all these stories has on her mental health; the pain of others becoming her own.
It’s difficult to say much more about Oranges and Sunshine other than it’s a film people will be talking about for a while. A film that will leave you emotionally shattered. A film that shows the power of cinema to bring the reality of these kind of real-life tales to a wide audience.