Deborah Ross

Lost children

I didn’t much like Oranges and Sunshine and I’ll tell you for why: it takes one of the most obscene scandals in 20th-century British politics — the mass forced deportation of British children to Australia, which began in the 1920s and continued right up until 1970 — and all but kills it off with its self-righteous stance, plodding script, mournful violins and clunky construction.

I didn’t much like Oranges and Sunshine and I’ll tell you for why: it takes one of the most obscene scandals in 20th-century British politics — the mass forced deportation of British children to Australia, which began in the 1920s and continued right up until 1970 — and all but kills it off with its self-righteous stance, plodding script, mournful violins and clunky construction.

I didn’t much like Oranges and Sunshine and I’ll tell you for why: it takes one of the most obscene scandals in 20th-century British politics — the mass forced deportation of British children to Australia, which began in the 1920s and continued right up until 1970 — and all but kills it off with its self-righteous stance, plodding script, mournful violins and clunky construction.

This should have been as moving as hell. This should have been so heart-rending I should have come out the cinema saying, ‘You know what, I don’t think my heart has ever been so rended. I’m going to take it to be un-rended first thing tomorrow, but I just don’t know if they’ll be able to fix it this time.’ Actually, some years ago, Charles Wheeler presented a Radio 4 series using individual testimonies to tell this very story and, listening in the car, I had to pull in, I was crying so hard. But I scarcely felt a thing during this. No, that’s not quite true. I did feel we were all being patronised somehow.

Directed by Jim Loach, son of Ken, who can also have his off days, this is the story of those children, as told through the story of Margaret Humphreys, the Nottingham social worker who first exposed the scandal. Emily Watson plays Margaret and, although I’m generally of the mind that any film with Emily Watson in it can’t be all bad, this character is so good, and only good, it’s not like she can take the part anywhere.

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