Set in 1959, against the backdrop of a rather exclusive Sydney department store, Ladies in Black is a coming of age story, not only for its main characters, but for the city of Sydney itself.
The story revolves around Lisa (Rice), a young girl just out of school, who lands a part-time Christmas job at the store and steps into a world she never imagined. Lisa dreams of going to university, wanting more out of life than ending up a housewife like her mother (Porter) and when she is taken under the wings of the young and mysterious Fay (Taylor) and the glamorous war refugee Magda (Ormond), her own dreams suddenly seem very possible.
Why should I watch it?
The central themes of the movie, the changing roles of women in society, immigration and the perfect dress, are as relevant today as they were 60 years ago. Perhaps even more so as Lisa is unknowingly stepping into a world on the brink of upheaval.
In post WWII Australia, immigrants are welcomed with a mixture of curiosity and awe. They bring with them stories of their lives during and after the war, strange accents and attitudes, and wonderful new foods. The sexual revolution is just around the corner and the younger ladies are at the forefront of this charge, ever so politely of course. But they bristle with the knowledge that their time will come and their lives will be different to those of their mothers.
Young Lisa is caught between her worlds: the suburban safety of her childhood and this exciting almost exotic world she can see, almost touch. But, needing her parent’s approval to move forward (her father must consent to her attending university and he has no intention of doing so) she needs to navigate carefully else it all disappear before she ever really had a chance.
And then there is the dress. Although not quite a little black dress, I dare say it was the 1959 Sydney equivalent. The dress is really a character all of its own. A quiet, subtle character but a character nonetheless.
Although it is a rather romanticised view of this time, the movie is sweet, funny and endearing with a humour that is irreverent and uniquely Australian.
Ladies in Black
Running Time: 109 minutes
Release Date: In Cinemas now