The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

THE apolo­gies keep com­ing. In 2008 Kevin Rudd apol­o­gised (mem­o­rably) to the stolen gen­er­a­tions. In re­cent weeks at least two pre­miers have apol­o­gised to the vic­tims of forced adop­tions. In 2009 the Aus­tralian and British gov­ern­ments apol­o­gised for the de­por­ta­tion of thou­sands of British chil­dren in care. In this gen­eral cli­mate of con­tri­tion, di­rec­tor Jim Loach’s British-Aus­tralian co-pro­duc­tion Or­anges and Sun­shine (Sun­day, noon, Show­time Pre­miere) could hardly be more top­i­cal. The film’s pro­duc­ers tell us that more than 130,000 British chil­dren were sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies or taken from in­sti­tu­tions and sent to Aus­tralia over sev­eral decades un­til the de­por­ta­tions ceased in 1970. Chil­dren were forced into man­ual labour or do­mes­tic ser­vice and there were many cases of abuse.

Loach (son of the British so­cial-re­al­ist film­maker Ken Loach) tells this ap­palling story through the eyes of Mar­garet Humphreys, a British so­cial worker whose in­ves­ti­ga­tions helped unite many sep­a­rated fam­i­lies and whose book, Empty Cra­dles (the ba­sis of Rona Munro’s screen­play), did much to the bring the scan­dal to pub­lic at­ten­tion. An­chor­ing the film is a lu­mi­nous per­for­mance from Emily Wat­son as Humphreys — the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of pluck, dogged­ness and com­pas­sion — with fine sup­port from David Wen­ham and Hugo Weav­ing. Or­anges and Sun­shine has grace, pas­sion and in­tegrity. It is told with dig­nity and re­straint and en­tirely with­out sen­sa­tion­al­ism, and if it lacks the kind of vig­or­ous nar­ra­tive drive that marks the best screen drama it is nev­er­the­less among the finest and most im­por­tant films yet made about so­cial in­jus­tice in this coun­try.

Arthur Penn’s land­mark gang­ster film Bon­nie and Clyde (Sun­day, 10.35pm, Movie Greats) shocked au­di­ences in the 1960s not only by set­ting new stan­dards of graphic vi­o­lence but also for its sym­pa­thetic por­trayal of two ru­ral De­pres­sion-era out­laws, played by War­ren Beatty and Faye Du­n­away. The film’s re­al­ism was height­ened, rather than tem­pered, by jaunty slap­stick se­quences and pas­sages of lyri­cism, and proved to be Warner’s big­gest box-of­fice at that time af­ter My Fair Lady.

It is Hol­ly­wood’s best and dark­est comic gang­ster film, but for black com­edy of a richer and deeper kind noth­ing sur­passes Amer­i­can Beauty (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Movie Greats), the first film of British stage di­rec­tor Sam Men­des and screen­writer Alan Ball. We fol­low Lester Burn­ham (Kevin Spacey) through a mid-life melt­down as he copes with im­mi­nent down­siz­ing at work, chaos on the do­mes­tic front and a de­vel­op­ing ob­ses­sion with a cheer­leader, his daugh­ter’s best friend at school. It’s been called the ul­ti­mate satire on sub­ur­bia, but I pre­fer to see it as a la­ment for empty and aim­less lives, wher­ever they may be lived.

Critic’s choice

(MA15+) ★★★★✩ Sun­day, 10.35pm, Movie Greats

(M) ★★★ Sun­day, noon, Show­time Pre­miere

(M) ★★★★✩ Sun­day, 8.30pm, Movie Greats

Amer­i­can Beauty

An­nette Ben­ing in

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