Director: Jim Loach
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Emily Watson, David Wenham.
Duration: 105 mins
The debut feature from Ken Loach’s son Jim displays many of the father’s inviting traits of social realism and docu-drama but verges on the solid, rather than spectacular side of filmic enterprise.
It tells the true story of Margaret Humphreys (Watson) who uncovered the organised mass deportation of over 100,000 children in English state care to Australia. The practice only ended in 1970. This story is very much buried in the international sense and, for that, the film delivers a worthy enlightenment to those who’ll see it and those made aware of the practice for the first time by coverage of the film. The visual feel throughout is unpretentious, unobtrusive and allows us naturally into the characters’ worlds. Unfortunately the weighty (and shocking) original fact of the organised mass deportation just doesn’t translate onscreen with a satisfactorily full emotional resonance. It’s a series of quiet, dignified shocks rather than a sweeping overhanging dramatic arc. Cinematic scope, perspective and empathy are what cinema delivers on in spades when suitably harnessed, but the power of this story ultimately falls short in its final emotional delivery and the film ends up being carefully constructed instead of cathartically relevant.
Loach directs plainly and unpretentiously – not necessarily a bad thing – but again a style familiar to fans of his father and hardly original. Some flair would have been a nice departure. Cast-wise David Wenham as the prickly Gus is terrific, while Emily Watson delivers a nicely mixed performance of compassion, vulnerability and steely determination as Margaret Humphreys. But look! Mr Anderson of The Matrix (aka Hugo Weaving – looking as far from the Matrix as possible) as one of the (now adult) deported children is also decent.
Like father like son? Let’s wait and see…