Ladies In Black

Picture it: Sydney, Australia, 1959, a fancy department store. The shop girls are called Ladies in Black because their uniforms consist of black cocktail dresses, impeccable hair, and elegant makeup.

Lisa (Angourie Rice) is a high school student hired as temporary help around the holidays. She’s an excellent student though her father doesn’t believe in higher education for women, and she’s about to learn some very important life lessons from her new coworkers.

Magda, over in formalwear, is particularly alluring to Lisa. Magda (Julia Ormond) and her husband are war refugees with exotic accents and food and friends. They’re expanding Lisa’s worldview, but also her self-concept.

There isn’t much of a plot here, it’s mostly just one of those sumptuous period pieces that you’re meant to just luxuriate in, and I did. But make no mistake: Ladies In Black isn’t as thin as it might appear. It’s actually really interesting to see how different women are living during this time, a time when it optimistically seemed possible to welcome different people into a country, to sample other cultures for the first time and not have it turn political. It wasn’t an ideal time of course, but it felt like better times were right around the corner, like maybe we were about to turn a page. We weren’t, but sometimes it’s nice just to soak in an isolated little bubble of hope and glamour.

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