Ladies in Black: The way we were

September 28, 2018


Ladies in Black (PG) 

Rating: 4.5 / 5


Take an innocent but smart young school leaver in 1959, give her a summer job at a posh department store and suddenly the world is her oyster.

In the delightful new Australian film, Ladies in Black, we follow 16-year-old Lisa (Angourie Rice), who is anxiously awaiting her final school results, even though she has a 1950s blue-collar father (Shane Jacobson) who declares, “No daughter of mine is going to university!”

Lisa’s world suddenly expands when she joins the ladies in black (sales assistants in smart black uniforms) at Goodes, a thinly-disguised David Jones. Our heroine learns about the lives of her older colleagues and has her horizons expanded by the sophisticated Slovenian ‘new Australian’ Magda (Julia Ormond), the queen of the exclusive model gowns department.

Through Magda, her husband Stefan (Vincent Perez) and their European friends, Lisa discovers a world outside her happy but simple suburban home, where all her clothes are made by her loving mother (Susie Porter). 

The film is a fine reflection of a different Australia, where so-called outsiders were viewed with suspicion, but if our unsophisticated Aussies took the time to get to know them, they soon found their lives could be enriched by those they had previously dismissed as ‘reffos’ (refugees).

Lisa’s friend Fay (Rachael Taylor), discovers that some European men, like love interest Rudi (Ryan Corr), are a refreshing change and a whole new world opens up.

Magda brings glamour and style to Goodes and, while her colleagues are still suspicious of her alien back­ground, they admire her panache and confidence, and slowly the barriers break down. Australian veteran Noni Hazlehurst delights as the wise head of the department, Miss Cartwright.

The film also covers some interesting social issues of the time, but the values of compassion, integrity and diversity triumph by the end of Lisa’s coming-of-age story. 

Ladies in Black is a heart-warming, feel-good film that throws a rosy glow on a time when Australia was just starting its multicultural journey.


+ A feel-good film


Adult themes


Tags: Salvation Army Australia

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