Oranges and Sunshine (Blu-ray) (2010)
Audio Commentary-director Jim Loach and writer Rona Munro
Featurette-Stolen Childhoods Restored - A Nation Says Sorry
Interviews-Cast-Emily Watson and Hugo Weaving
Featurette-Q & A at the London British Film Institute
|Year Of Production||2010|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Jim Loach|
South Aust Film Corp
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, Establishing shots behind credits.|
In 1986, Margaret Humphreys, a Nottingham social worker, investigated a woman's claim that at age four she had been put on a boat to Australia by the British Government. Humphreys discovered that this was just one of thousands of stories, with up to 150,000 children from as young as three years old being deported from children's homes in Britain and shipped off to a "new life" in distant parts of the Empire. Children were sent to Canada, New Zealand, the former Rhodesia and other parts of the Commonwealth of Nations, including seven thousand sent to Australia where they were promised a life filled with "oranges and sunshine". Many of these children were told that their parents were dead, while the parents in turn were told that their children had been adopted. In fact, for many of the children it was to be a life of horrendous physical and sexual abuse far away from everything they knew. Humphreys and her team reunited thousands of families, brought authorities to account, and focussed worldwide attention on an outrageous policy that was still operating as late as 1970.
This important and dramatic story is told in the film Oranges and Sunshine, which stars Emily Watson (Wah-Wah) as Margaret Humphreys. The director is Jim Loach, son of Ken, here working on his first feature film, with a screenplay by Rona Munro based on Margaret Humphrey's book Empty Cradles published in 1994. Munro has limited feature film experience and here lies the major problem with this film. There is no denying that this is powerful and important subject matter, but it is not enough just to tell the facts. A film needs to be a film first with dramatic structure in the plot, individual scenes and the whole having some dramatic impact. The screenplay of Oranges and Sunshine lacks structure and dramatic force, with some sections - such as the visit to the isolated church institution - ludicrous. We see-saw constantly between the UK and Australia, with minor characters given no depth, merely coming on, saying who they are, and virtually telling us what to think. There actually is one scene where a mother and daughter tell Emily Watson that they have just had "the happiest moments of their lives". I wish we had seen it, instead of being told about it. Emily Watson is a fine, sensitive actress and she does her best, but it's pretty miserable stuff with the actress's customary inner glow extinguished throughout. Hugo Weaving is fine, but David Wenham is artificial and unconvincing. Lisa Gerrard's music is restrained and gentle, surprising from the composer who did something for the soundtrack of that shocker, in the worst sense, Priest. The director of photography, Denson Baker (Birthday) is assured and makes good use of the widescreen frame at his disposal.
This was a disgraceful episode in British and Australian history, and I applaud the intentions of those responsible for telling this story. As the film stands, the makers would have better served their subject matter, and the victims of the story, by making a documentary rather than this rather uninvolving dramatised account.
This is yet another excellent looking disc from Icon.
Presented at the ratio of 2.35:1 in a 1080p transfer, the image is extremely sharp, with wonderful detail in every frame. The detail is evident in close-ups and interiors, UK cityscapes, delicate iron lacework in Perth and the Australian bush. Shadow detail is also excellent. While the palette is wide, the colour is subdued throughout, in both the British and Australian scenes. Happily this is not one of those films where "subdued" means "orange". The full spectrum is there, but don't expect any vivid flashes of colour. Skin tones are exceptionally fine.
There are English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired which were sampled and found to convey the dialogue excellently.
There are two audio streams, English in both Stereo PCM and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film was watched employing the latter.
The soundtrack is excellent without any blemishes. This is a dialogue driven film, and every word, no matter how hushed, is perfectly conveyed, without any sync problems. The fronts are frequently obvious with action moving to the sides, with cars exiting strongly into left and right speakers. In the establishing shots behind the credits there is an entire cityscape of sounds filling the room.
Although there is little opportunity for anything dynamic, the surrounds are active at every opportunity. City sounds and the Australian outback both provide opportunity for ambient fill while Lisa Gerrard's music is beautifully reproduced.
|Surround Channel Use|
On start-up we are served up two trailers, in 1080p and looking excellent. Annoyingly, I could not avoid having to run these trailers every time I started the disc.
The menu is presented over a very attractive live and animated montage, with the main theme from the score.
This feature length commentary is delivered by director Jim Loach and writer Rona Munro. Recorded as they are watching the film, the audio is monitored making volume allowances for their silent moments. In hushed, almost reverential tones, the two creators comment on scenes as they are played before us. There is nothing here that is really very interesting, just comments on the authenticity of the shooting locations, costumes, props and other aspects of the production. It is all very intimate, but rather cold. There is a bit too much self-congratulation on their avoidance of "melodrama", and being "naf" - hadn't heard that one in ages. What does come across is the sincerity of their approach to the material, but there are many clues here as to why this does not succeed as a dramatised work.
Presented at 1.33:1, this is a totally unedited record preceded by the following written information :"On 24th February 2010, the UK Government apologized on behalf of the nation to all child migrants and welcomed them back home as sons and daughters of Britain. A number of former child migrants were invited to the Houses of Parliament to witness the apology in person."
There is one continuous tight shot on the podium and the speakers. We do not see the audience at all. The first speaker is the secretary of State for Health who introduces Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who in turn introduces Margaret Humphreys, Founder and Director of the Child Migrants trust, and Harold Haig, the Secretary of the International Child Migrants Association. Mr Haig, himself a child migrant, brings the speeches to a restrained but emotional conclusion.
Presented in 576i at 1.78:1, sharp and clear and with very attractive colour. Miss Watson is filmed with a huge black and white shot of migrant children for a background, the same shot seen in the photo gallery, while Mr Weaving is filmed in front of some green shrubbery. The time is split fairly evenly between the two, with questions for the actress focussing on Margaret's "journey", the influence of having her own children, the actress's biggest challenge and the importance of the story. The most interesting part of Miss Watson's interview is the discussion of her decision not to meet the real Margaret until after the film was completed. The questions for Mr Weaving are very predictable, such as why he was attracted to playing "Jack" and what was his approach to the role. The interviews are pretty standard, but nicely filmed.
Again we have totally unedited footage, which actually begins with chairs being set up in front of the screen while the end credits for Oranges and Sunshine are still rolling. This footage is presented in 576i at 1.78:1 in quite reasonable quality, although the stage lighting was quite poor. On stage are, from left to right, the screenwriter, Rona Munro, director Jim Loach, star Emily Watson, the "real" Margaret Humphreys and the "hostess". I watched every second of this, and it was rather tedious stuff. Most of the questions are from the perspective of social workers, and very little attention is given to the film itself as a film. This aspect seemed to please Emily Watson, evidenced by one of her final comments, and I guess actors do tire of the sameness of many question/answer situations. Nevertheless, it is a bit troubling when filmmakers assert that "the story is enough - doesn't need film-making style". So, why didn't Loach make a documentary?
Presented in 1080p at the ratio of 2.35:1 this is a very nicely constructed trailer, with excellent image.
This is a gallery of some of the actual victims of the system, in eleven black and white images, photos and newspaper pages. There is a final colour image of a statue of a priest that survivors would like to see demolished. These photos of the actual children have enormous emotional impact, more than the film itself.
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NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
To date there has been no Region 1 release of this title.
This film is based on recent history and should have had enormous dramatic impact. The makers, it seems, have chosen a "tasteful", subdued approach, and the result is a film that fails to involve or move. Technically proficient, and with Emily Watson at her most stoic, this is a handsome looking production that sadly misses the boat as a film. There is a well stuffed bag of goodies, some better than others, that may satisfy any aroused interest in the horrendous injustice of this government disgrace. The disc looks and sounds excellent.
|DVD||SONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output|
|Display||Samsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|