Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
Directed by Beeban Kidron
Based on the novel by Jeanette Winterson
Academy Twin Cinemas
1991 National Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
Reviewed by Stephanie Miller
Oranges is the witty, optimistic, sometimes sad story of Jess, a young Lancashire girl, and the conflict between her fervent evangelical upbringing and her emerging lesbian sexuality. As a story of growing up, rebelling against parents and Christian morality, searching for sexual expression, the story is one with which we can all identify.
Adopted at birth by a woman who is a charismatic evangelist, Jess is brought up in a repressive and narrow-minded religious environment. As the story unfolds, we follow Jess' journey out of a childhood dominated by her God-crazed mother and the sinister Pastor Finch, to an independent and self-determined womanhood.
The film emphasises the positive and joyous experiences of Jess' journey, including the supportive relationships she develops with other women in the small Lancashire village, all of whom have felt equally repressed and, at times, condemned for daring to live as unmarried women or to question the moral edicts of the pastor and his loyal band of disciples.
Originally produced for television in three episodes, Oranges is based on Jeanette Winterson's award-winning novel, and her screenplay captures the humour of the novel. Revival meetings on Morcambe beach, piano thumping to drown out the sounds of fornication next door, the mother's poker-faced reminiscence of a Parisian love affair in which she mistook the "fizzing" in her stomach for love (it was an ulcer, after all) are beautifully composed scenes which contribute to the accessibility of this film.
Kidron captures with equal sensitivity the most difficult and violent interactions between Jess and her religious mentors; the tender and awkward moments of teenage flirtation and first-time intimacy; and the process of reconciliation between mother and daughter.
Comparable in content and style to Campion's Angel At My Table, Oranges is full of memorable images, witty lines and quirky scenes. One hopes it will be seen by a larger, television audience in Australia. n