Story

Ladies in Black begins in the summer of 1959. Lisa (Angourie Rice), a bookish school girl, takes a summer job in Sydney’s renowned department store, Goode’s. At first she doesn’t fit in with Patty (Alison McGirr) and Fay (Rachel Taylor), the worldly women with whom she works, but her sweetness and charm soon win them over. Magda (Julia Ormond) is a European supervisor in the designer dress department and a connoisseur of elegant fashions. She takes Lisa under her wing, and Lisa’s world begins to change in ways she could never have imagined.

Lisa in turn begins to influence those around her. Her open-mindedness allows her to navigate other cultures and appreciate the differences she encounters. Through Lisa’s influence and Magda’s connections, Fay meets Rudi (Ryan Corr), the man of her dreams.

Because of Lisa’s hard work and persistence, her father (Shane Jacobson) finally begins to see that women have as much right to an education as men do. Little by little barriers break down and the world begins to change for the ‘ladies in black’ as they, in their own ways, influence Australia’s future.

Themes

Marital estrangement and miscommunication; cultural stereotyping; gender inequality

Violence

Ladies in Black has references to the violence of World War II, refugee camps and Nazi atrocities.

Sexual references

Ladies in Black has some sexual references. For example:

  • A doctor asks Patty how often she and her husband ‘have relations’.
  • Fay talks about how all the men she has recently dated have only one thing on their minds.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Ladies in Black shows some use of substances. For example, various characters smoke and drink throughout the movie.

Nudity and sexual activity

Ladies in Black has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • Patty looks at herself in a mirror wearing nothing but a towel. Off screen, she lets the towel fall to the floor and puts on a silky negligee. Her husband walks in and tells her that he ‘will help her take it off’. The scene shows them kissing in bed.
  • A man gropes Fay under the table while they’re on a date. She pushes his hands away from her thighs.
  • Fay tells Rudi about how she once worked as a prostitute for a rich man.

Product placement

Nothing of concern

Coarse language

Ladies in Black has some mild coarse language, insults and name-calling. For example:

  • Some characters use derogatory terms like ‘bloody foreigners’, ‘reffos’ and ‘continentals’ to describe immigrants.
  • Patty’s husband is called a ‘dill’. A woman is called a ‘cow’. Magda is called ‘bossy boots’ behind her back.
  • Patty calls her husband ‘gormless’ and tells him to ‘go to hell’.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Ladies in Black is a comedy drama based on the bestselling novel by Madeleine St John. It gives an accurate and often humorous glimpse into women’s lives in Sydney during the 1950s. It’s likely to appeal to mature audiences but might lack interest for younger children.

The main messages from this movie are that people are the same regardless of where they’re from and that ‘a clever girl is the most wonderful thing in creation’.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:

  • being tolerant of and open-minded towards others
  • embracing diversity
  • following your dreams and always striving to do your best, no matter what others think you’re capable of.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like:

  • cultural and gender stereotypes
  • open communication between couples
  • gender inequality and the freedoms that women have and haven’t gained over the last 60 years.