The Fall of Singapore. A boat evacuating women and children is strafed and sunk. The survivors swim ashore to be met by the Japanese forces in Sumatra and herded into a remote internment camp. For the various women - a dignitary's wife (Close), a missionary (Collins), a model (Ehle), a grande dame (Spriggs), an Aussie nurse (Blanchett), and a lone American (Margulies) - those who can endure will face three years' hard labour. A feminised PoW movie, writer/director Beresford's ensemble film describes downbeat, recalcitrant heroism: the loss of family, serfdom, disease, the threat of rape and prostitution. The 'twist' is the women's choice of succour. Based on Betty Jeffrey's diaries White Coolies, the film documents how inmates formed a 'vocal orchestra' and performed their own arrangements of symphonic classics. Finely acted, opulently produced, old-fashioned, unadventurous and emotionally hidebound.
Cast and crew