Ladies in Black

COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 49min

STARRING: Rachael Taylor, Julia Ormond, Angourie Rice

Survival of the fitters: from left, McGirr, Rice and Taylor

Sydney in the 1959 of Ladies in Black is a more gracious city, where ladies dressed up to shop for frocks from Goodes la-di-da department store’s other ladies. It’s also a different world for women altogether, in which men rule their roosts and their significant others aren’t likely to question the status quo, regardless of how poorly it serves them.


Goodes’ black-clad sales ladies aren’t immune to this chauvinistic rule: Fay (Taylor) urgently needs to meet a decent bloke, while Patty’s (Alison McGirr) clueless husband, Frank (Luke Pegler), could be a lot more “attentive,” wink-wink. Slovenian import Magda (English actress Ormond, showcasing a fruity accent) has a beady eye on her own business, and 16-year-old Lisa (Rice), helping out at the store over Christmas while sweating on an entrée to Sydney Uni, fears her dyed-in-the-wool dad (Shane Jacobson) is unlikely to allow her to go.


That all their lives will change for the better is an established fact, even for anyone who hasn’t revelled in Madeleine St John’s beloved 1993 novel, The Women in Black, on which director Bruce Beresford’s soft-soapy charm offensive is based. His movie is a shaft of sunshine, rich in nostalgia-inducing period detail and firmly wedded to happy endings. It’s not so much what happens in the ebb and flow of the ladies’ everyday lives as the gentle flow of their unfolding that keeps the old-fashioned stew on simmer. That, and Beresford’s peachy evocation of what, for all its limitations, was a far more innocent era. Sometimes the foreseeable is a means to its own ends.