ladies in black
DIRECTOR: bruce beresford (driving miss daisy, mr. church, mao's last dancer)
STARRING: rachael taylor, Angourie Rice, julia ormond, and vincent perez
REVIEWER: lyall carter
Set in the summer of 1959, when the impact of European migration and the rise of women’s liberation is about to change Australia forever, a shy schoolgirl takes a summer job at the prestigious Sydney department store, Goode’s. There she meets the “ladies in black”, who will change her life forever.
As a film reviewer you see your share of movies. The vast majority are good, entertaining nights out. But then there are the rare films that have a kind of magic about them. It could be a single performance, a gripping narrative, or a fresh and inventive twist on a genre. But then there are those kind of films that just whisk you off to another time and place and you walk out feeling warm and fuzzy and that all is right in the world. Ladies in Black is that kind of film.
Set in 1959, Ladies in Black follows the lives of a couple of retail assistants who work in the ladies department in Sydney's most glamorous department store, Goode's. Theres Fay who's looking for a bloke but someone a little different to the horrid Ozy blokes she's constantly set up with, Patty who's husband doesn't seem interested in her in an 'intimate' kind of way, Magda a WWII Eastern European refugee, and Lisa a shy, bookworm who has taken a summer job at Goode's during the school holidays.
The film is awash with 50's nostalgia and feels very similar in tone and setting to ITV's wonderful Mr. Selfridge and the superb Saoirse Ronan film Brooklyn which is not a bad thing at all. Although the story has many threads, its completely engaging from start to finish with a scattering of well placed humour throughout that had the audience I watched it with in fits. The only slight let down is that it felt like it finished a little abruptly.
While its a cast with vast international experience in film, television, and theatre there are absolutely no A listers here (Meryl Streep is no where to be seen). But this ensemble cast is absolutely superb and none of them put a foot wrong.
There are little social undertones as well; women having to get their fathers permission to go to university, negative views of refugees (which is highly topical in light of the Nauru island refugees), and 1950's societal views on heterosexual intimacy. Now my mentioning this may enrage some people but I can assure you it never feels at all preachy. It just feels like this is the way it was in the 1950's and Ladies in Black doesn't shy away from that.
A joyous nostalgic delight that will enthral you from start to finish and a wonderful love letter to the city of Sydney. Grab Mum, Nana, and the aunties for a night in watching Ladies in Black. Its utterly charming.