The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And it was good intentions that condemned 130,000 children to an appalling hell. They were effectively deported from this country to Australia, with the collusion of the British and Australian governments. When there they did not find the oranges and sunshine they had been enticed with, but many were condemned to a living hell of forced labour and abuse that left them scarred. When did all this happen? Not Victorian times as you might imagine, but right up until the 1970's. Children were told that their parents had died and parents told that their children had been adopted into loving families, huge untruths, in order to get them away. It was all done with the best of intentions, the authorities here seemed to truly believe that they were being sent to a better life (but surely someone in authority must have had an idea of what they were going to?), but it is results that matter, not intentions, and the results were an obscene blot on the history of two nations that like to call themselves civilised.
What was even worse was that the governments tried to cover up what had been done, and did everything they could to evade responsibility, in the final insult to the children they had betrayed denying them the opportunity to find their real families. This film tells the story of one woman's fight to uncover the truth, and to reunite families on opposite sides of the world. It is a very restrained and understated film, almost documentary like, and has a more powerful impact because of it. No histrionics here, just the bald, simple truth. It's powerful stuff. Emily Watson as the social worker drawn into the investigation which slowly takes over her life, and Hugo Weaving as one of the victims that she forms a strong bond with are great performances, very naturalistic.
In all a moving film, and one that reveals a shocking episode in our history. 5 stars.