Alison McGirr, Angourie Rice and Rachael Taylor in a scene from Ladies in Black.
Alison McGirr, Angourie Rice and Rachael Taylor in a scene from Ladies in Black. Anna Steel

There's a delight in store in 1950s drama

Behind the glossy counters and glittering clothes racks of a Sydney department store, a group of women are navigating the social upheaval of the 1950s.

Starting on the page as The Women in Black 25 years ago, Madeleine St John's best-selling novel was adapted into a hit stage musical, Ladies in Black, in 2015.

Now the characters enter their next incarnation on the big screen in director Bruce Beresford's lavish period drama of the same name.

Rachael Taylor in a scene from Ladies in Black.
Rachael Taylor in a scene from Ladies in Black. Lisa Tomasetti

The alluring and tender-hearted comedy drama follows the lives of a group of department store employees through the eyes of summer intern Lisa, played by rising talent Angourie Rice.

Despite growing up in a different century to her on-screen character, Angourie still found it easy to relate to Lisa and the upheaval of being on the cusp of adulthood.

Q: Lisa is a very ambitious young woman, but from a very different time. In what ways did you relate to her and what qualities did you want to bring to the big screen version of this character?

Angourie Rice in a scene from the movie Ladies in Black.
Angourie Rice in a scene from the movie Ladies in Black. Anna Steel

A: Lisa belongs to my grandmother's generation, but in a way she is dealing with the same things that any young person today has to go through. Just like Lisa, I'm about to leave school, I'm learning what it's like to live in the world as an adult and make my own decisions. Of course the cars and the technology and the fashion and manners are all a little different, but I feel that I can still relate to her coming-of-age story.

Q: You've been working overseas with some big names in recent years, how was it returning home to work in Australia?

A: It was so great to be able to work in the city where I was born. This story is particularly meaningful to me because both my grandmothers were young women living in Sydney at the time the film is set. It's a story that directly relates to my life and my own family history. You can't get that working overseas, and that's why Australian stories are so important to me.

Q: You share so many great scenes with Julia Ormond, what was it like working with her?

Julia Ormond and Angourie Rice in a scene from Ladies in Black.
Julia Ormond and Angourie Rice in a scene from Ladies in Black. Anna Steel

A: She was amazing! She is so incredibly gracious, professional, elegant, and very focused. I found her dedication and passion for the work really inspiring.

Q: And what was it like working with Bruce Beresford? What is his directing style like compared to your previous experiences?

A: I'm so grateful I got the opportunity to work with someone who is an icon of Australian filmmaking. I've been lucky enough to work with a lot of amazing directors so it's a bit hard to compare them. Bruce was usually pretty relaxed. I think when you're as experienced as he is, you can stay relaxed and still know exactly what you want and get it.

Q: What do you hope younger movie-goers take away from this film?

A: I would hope that younger movie-goers will enjoy going on Lisa's journey of growing up. We all have to do it sometime. This film really is about learning and growing, and navigating those moments where you have to start questioning the old ways of doing things. That's something relevant to everyone, no matter how old you are.

Shane Jacobson plays Lisa's father Mr Miles in Ladies in Black.
Shane Jacobson plays Lisa's father Mr Miles in Ladies in Black. Lisa Tomasetti

Q: What's the next project for you?

A: I'm about to finish school, just like Lisa. At the moment I'm just auditioning for things and looking at projects I'm interested in. I'm really looking forward to the summer holidays, though. I can't wait to spend Christmas back home in Australia.

Ladies in Black opens on Thursday.

STARS: Angourie Rice, Julia Ormond, Rachael Taylor, Ryan Corr, Susie Porter, Shane Jacobson, Noni Hazlehurst, Nicholas Hammond.

DIRECTOR: Bruce Beresford

RATING: PG

REVIEWER'S LAST WORD: Even though it evokes a romantic nostalgia for a time - and fashions - gone by, Ladies in Black is still a timely coming-of-age story not just for its central character but post-war Australia as well.


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