It doesn’t happen often that I’m shook up by the movie I have just watched. As I came out of the theatre, I needed a moment to breathe in deeply and take it all in. I don’t usually watch movies like this, but stories like this do deserve to be told.
Sulphur and White is based on the true story of David Tait, portrayed beautifully by Mark Stanley (“Hellboy”, “Run”). He suffered sexual abuse during his childhood in Johannesburg, and this has haunted him through his adulthood. When he meets Vanessa, played by Emily Beecham (“Berlin, I Love You”, “The Calling”), he has to find the strength to overcome his inner demons.
Julian Jarrold (“Kinky Boots”, “Becoming Jane”) did a masterful job at directing the movie. It starts out slow, but this makes the abuse so much more severe. You can see the build-up, and how this little boy tries his best to deal with everything. I don’t think I’ll ever look at flickering lights again.
This is a character-driven movie, and it has kept me on the edge of my seat. I don’t think I’ve been this tense in a movie theatre in a long time. Julian Jarrold knows when to pull his audience in and don’t let go.
The cast does a brilliant job at portraying their characters. I’ll start with Hugo Stone, who plays David at the age of 10. This is his first outing on the screen, and his performance blew me away. He’s one to watch.
Anson Boon (“1917”, “Crawl”) plays David as a 15 year old, and he also was a huge surprise. I believed him, that I did. All of the adults are brilliant. Mark Stanley’s performance as the adult David Tait had me in tears near the end of the movie. Dougray Scott (“Hitman”, “MI2”) is a terrifying presence in the house as Donald Tait, the patriarch.
There were a lot of scenes that touched a nerve, but one scene in particular struck me as incredibly powerful. David is introducing his new girlfriend Vanessa to his estranged father. Before she arrives, his father asks him about his first family. David says he never got too much involved with them. He says “Leaving them alone. Best thing for them really.”
I think this is very telling about how he sees himself. He’s so afraid of becoming his dad, he just pushes everybody away once the chance arises. It’s utterly heartbreaking. His father tells him “You’re just me in a better suit.”. I don’t think he could’ve said anything more hurtful at that point. After all, there are many different kinds of abuse.
I recommend you go and see this film. It’s the story of a man trying to better himself. He has to fall incredibly low before he can, but he manages it. It’s a true story, about a true hero, who you should all hear about. Let’s all be better than our demons.