A poignant, comic and totally original coming-of-age story adapted for the BBC in 1990 by Jeanette WinteRson from her Whitbread prize-winning novel.
Jess is the adopted daughter of a deeply religious woman. Growing up isolated and insulated in the north of England in the 1970's, Jess is told she's part of a larger plan. Her mother keeps her away from "Breeding Grounds" like schools, preferring to train her to spread God's word "to all the heathens in the hot countries."
Jess eventually attends school, but continually feels like an outcast due to her religious beliefs. Her small town life changes when she meets Melanie, a beautiful sixteen-year old, and she experiences love at first sight. As the two draw closer, Jess's mother sees the devil at work and determines to exorcise the demons from her daughter.
Faced with the ire of Pastor Finch and his congregation, Jess realises that she must soon decide between following her own heart or the path of life set out for her by others.
With Charlotte Coleman as Jess, Geraldine McEwan as her mother and Kenneth Cranham as Pastor Finch. Also starring Celia Imrie, Pam Ferris and Barbara Hicks.
Jeanette Winterson's semi-autobiographical novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
transfers wonderfully to the screen in this BBC adaptation (with a screenplay by Winterson). Jess is the adopted daughter of evangelical Christians living in the northwest of England in the 1960s. Her mother wants Jess to be a missionary, but when she falls in love with Melanie, Jess begins to realise that there is more to life than church. When Jess' mother begins to suspect the girls of "unnatural passions" she tries to destroy their relationship with the help of Pastor Finch (Kenneth Cranham) and his congregation. But their efforts--including a terrifying attempt at exorcism--only push Jess further away. Jess eventually understands that the only way to survive is to escape, and she sets her sights on a place at Oxford.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is both a broad comedy and a moving coming-of-age story. Charlotte Coleman is perfect as the teenage Jess, attempting to reconcile her religious devotion and her adolescent passion, but the film belongs to Geraldine McEwan as Jess' mother. McEwan obviously relishes Winterson's script, and she creates a character both monstrous, ridiculous and surprisingly sympathetic. It's a difficult role to carry off, but McEwan succeeds. Her performance is the high-point of this award-winning, provocative film. --Simon Leake