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Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (1990)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

A mining town in the north of England, some time in the mid 1960s. Jess's 7 year-old life is filled with church going. Her stern adoptive mother and the women from the church group have been called to Morecambe to do 'the Lord's work'. They preach and play their musical instruments very loudly on the beach, while Jess plays in the sand.

9 years later, a 16 year-old Jess is spreading the word of God herself, cracks are beginning to show in her relationship with her mother. On market day, Jess accompanies her mother shopping, and meets Melanie for the first time. She is mesmerised from the start. The two teenage girls strike up a secret friendship. Melanie comes along to church and is 'baptised' thus making her a suitable friend for Jess. Soon their friendship blossoms into romance and they fall in love. They consummate their relationship while staying the night at Elsie's house, aware of the need to hide their relationship from the rest of the church.

Jess's mother suspects something is going on between the two girls, and matters come to a head when Pastor Finch denounces both of them in church. Melanie acquiesces immediately, asking forgiveness for her 'sin'. Jess escapes from the church, lead away by Miss Jewsbury. When Jess finally goes home, Pastor Finch, her mother and two other women from the church lay in wait for her, and perform an exorcism. They bind and gag Jess and pray over her for three days and three nights. Jess realises she must pretend to be 'cured' of her lesbianism if she is to get the church off her back.

A few months after the exorcism, Jess is still spreading the word of God. The church group are in Blackpool, administrating to lost souls who have now 'seen the light'. At one of the revivals, Jess meets Katy, who is obviously very smitten with her. It doesn't take much persuasion for Jess to realise her feelings for Katy, and before the church leaves Blackpool they have embarked on a relationship, kept secret from the rest of the church.

When Melanie turns up at the church for the Harvest Festival, she tells Jess' mother what is going on between Jess and Katy. This time around Jess is much stronger, unwilling to be dictated to again. She finally leaves home, finds a job and a place to stay with Cissy at the funeral home; life begins to feel normal. She next sees her mother and the rest of the church group at Elsie's funeral. She is still vilified by them for her 'sin against God'.

Jess decides finally to renounce her allegiance to the church and makes up her mind to get out of the small-minded town once and for all. She sits the entrance exams for Oxford University, winning a place. Just before she leaves for her new life, she visits her mother to patch things up. It is Christmas Eve and everyone is in a more forgiving spirit. Although her mother still will not accept Jess for who she is, they do not fight anymore.