I walked into Oranges and Sunshine (written by Rona Munro and directed by Jim Loach) not knowing much about the story except thinking how glad I was to see Emily Watson back on screen in a starring role. I walked out incredibly moved and shocked by this true story.
The film tells the story of British social worker Margaret Humphreys who discovers a horrible truth, that British children in foster care and were deported to Australia with promises of “oranges and sunshine” only to be stuck in very difficult and at times abusive living situations. Most all were told that they had no families, and they were kids, so they believed what the authorities told them. Turns out many had parents who were alive and siblings who had no idea where the kids went.
Humphreys became the advocate for these “refugees” and helped reunite as many families as she could. The hard thing to swallow is that this really happened and that it went on for decades and the public had no idea. The British and the Australian governments only issued apologies for their actions in November of 2009 and January of 2010.
Watson plays Humphreys with her usual gusto. She shows a woman who dedicates her life to helping these people who she doesn’t know to the detriment of her family. She gives up many years at home with her young kids to take on this issue. She is also threatened because she unearths the abuse that many of the children suffered and holds people accountable.
I love movies like this and I have to say the Brits do them so well. Small, moving stories about interesting and important topics. Margaret Humphreys is a true hero and I was really glad to learn about her.
The film is in limited release now.