Adding to the list of light-hearted Australian films that have been released this year, Ladies In Black delivers a charming portrayal of life for a group of working women in suburban Australia in the late 1950’s.
Set in Sydney, the film follows four women during the summer of 1959 as they embark upon new beginnings within each of their respective lives.
Lisa (Angourie Rice) is a young girl who, having completed her final year of high school, dreams of attending the University of Sydney. In anticipation of her final exam results, she gets a summer job interning at a large, swanky department store in the city. Whilst there, Lisa works alongside Fay (Rachel Taylor), Magda (Julia Ormond) and Patty (Alison McGirr), three women of differing backgrounds whose stories all come together to influence Lisa’s own.
Director Bruce Beresford explores a time when refugees were still new to Australia and referred to with disdain as ‘reffos.’ Magda is one of them, disliked by the other girls working in the department store because she is different. Regardless, she takes Lisa under her wing and teaches the young girl about fashion, introducing her to a new and exciting European way of life. Here, Beresford cleverly captures the beauty of culture, highlighting how much we stand to learn if only we remain open to those beliefs and traditions which differ from our own.
Ladies in Black is sprinkled with real footage from Sydney in the 50’s, making for a much more relatable tale. Some of the scenes even required reconstruction of the CBD to make it look how it once did, offering an accurate depiction of how the trams used to rule the streets prior to their removal from the city. The clothing adorned by the women stays true to the period throughout, and some of the dresses would even be enviable today.
Each of the four main characters experience growth in some way or another during the film, whether it be in regards to relationships, business, education or acceptance. Ultimately, Ladies In Black delves into the idea of culture and friendship, revealing just what it is that we could miss out on, should we choose to remain uneducated and unwilling to accept those who are different.
Ladies in Black is based on the best-selling novel ‘The Women in Black’ by author Madeleine St John.