23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Understated, But Effective: A Powerful And Disturbing True Life Story Of Corruption, Cover-up, Abuse And Exploitation,
This review is from: Oranges and Sunshine [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
The subject matter of "Oranges and Sunshine" is almost too disturbing to be believed. And yet, remarkably, it is the true recounting of one of the largest scandals of the last few decades. In 1986, a British social worker named Margaret Humphreys started to piece together an amazing and harrowing story that involved the mass deportation of children from the United Kingdom to Australia. What she discovered was simply stunning. The scandal involved political corruption and cover-up, religious impropriety, human rights violations, slave labor, systematic abuse and a government program that divided hundreds of families and disappeared countless minor children. This is such a grand and epic tale, it's hard to imagine that a film discussing these atrocities wouldn't be aggressively in-your-face. But the beauty of "Oranges and Sunshine" is that it takes a quieter approach and as things start to unfold, the dramatic weight of the situation really sneaks up on you and bowls you over!
A restrained Emily Watson plays Humphreys, a woman who didn't ask to be thrust into a worldwide spotlight. In the beginning of the film, she is approached by a woman for help finding her parents. This is when she firsts hears about children being shipped to Australia. Initially reticent and disbelieving, she soon hears a corroboration of this tale. She starts to dig deeper and push further, working between the U.K. and Australia to start repairing families. It consumes her life and livelihood, but she is pushed by a sense of justice. As word gets out, she is a savior to many but an embarrassment to others. And as the unfolding allegations put many important figures in an unfavorable light, she is soon discredited by many and attacked (both emotionally and physically). But as the investigation perseveres, there is soon no use denying the truth.
Watson is so reserved to begin with, it is quite powerful to see the strain start to shatter her existence. It's a great performance in that it is completely underplayed and, therefore, all the more believable. Directed by Jim Loach (son of award winner Ken Loach), the film also boasts impressive support by David Wenham and Hugo Weaving. Both Weaving and Watson picked up actor accolades from Australian Film Critics Circle. As I watched the movie unravel fairly simply, I was sure I was going to give it four stars as a solid exploration of an unfathomable event. But then the magnitude and emotion really hit me in the concluding scenes and I realized just how well constructed the film actually was. With a minimum of histrionics, sentimentality, or moralizing, the screenplay and the actors really gets under your skin. And, in the end, I was deeply affected by "Oranges and Sunshine" because it didn't go for all the big expected moments. Understatement done extremely well! KGHarris, 6/12.