Apr 11

Film 2Oh!!: 80’s Public Sector Nostalgia (aka There’ll Always Be A Loach)

Do You See2 comments • 400 views

I’ve seen 74 films this year and have written about 8 of them. Can I catch up?

8: Oranges And Sunshine (cinema)

There is something nice about knowing that Jim Loach, Ken’s son, despite being a regular director of Footballers Wives back in the day, is resolutely a chip off the old block when it comes to feature directing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Ken would have made Oranges And Sunshine in the same way, but an interest in highlighting injustice, and exposing the scandals of the State are clearly shared by father and son. And who in this day and age would dare have a social worker for a heroine?

Oranges and Sunshine is the tale of Margaret Humphreys, Nottingham social worker who uncovered the programme of mass state emigration of care home kids from, the UK to Australia, and her trying to discover who they are. Its an odd affair, where the villain is mainly long gone governments, plus a few abusing Christian brothers. The scandal, the action, all takes place well before the film starts, and it may seem odd to not have one of the deportees as the hero, rather their campaigner. But it works surprisingly well, partially due to the empathic performance of Emily Watson as a proxy for all of the deportees. And it works because it understands that people are numbers and stats blind so the scale of the scandal is better understood by our belief in a good character who truly understands the scandal.

The oddest thing about the film though (bar the lack of Oranges), is that it surprisingly paints a wonderfully rosy world for public services in the UK in 1986. Humphreys gets interested in the first case at a tangent. Its not part of her job, and she even takes leave to fly to Australia to get some answers. On her return we get two great stereotypical scenes. One is with her husband and kids where they SHOULD resent her* but they give her support. The other is from her boss who SHOULD (and I would) say you seem to be a bit distracted by this thing that is not your job. In a terrific scene she actually declares undying support and gives here two years worth of council money to pursue the globe trotting adventure. You’d never get that in the current public sector!

*They do later in a somewhat clichéd but effective end scene where the kids are asked what they will give the Australians for Christmas, and they say bitterly “we already gave you our Mum”.


  1. 1
    Mark M on 15 Apr 2011 #

    I guess what I want to know is if Loach Jr’s time in episodic TV have left him with a better grasp of narrative than his dad. Because while Ken’s films often include absolutely extraordinary moments, I’m hard pressed to think of one besides Kes that actually properly worked as a story for me.

  2. 2
    Pete on 17 Apr 2011 #

    I think it probably has, though he has picked a bad place to start – a film where the story has all pretty much happened and the protagonist is notreally part of the interesting story at all. That he makes it more or less work is a good thing, but you can’t holdit upasa poster boy for driving narrative cinema.

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