Director Shaun O’Connor’s A White Horse opens with Bridget (Amber Deasy) shaking. She hurriedly takes a coin out of her pocket and calls home. She desperately explains to her mother (Cora Fenton) that she is scared and running from a white horse who is trying to find her. Right away, Paul Cahill’s screenplay thrust me into the drama and left me to connect the pieces of what was going on.
This is first and foremost about the torturous ‘psychiatric methods’ used in psychiatric hospitals to suppress traits and actions that were deemed abnormal, including individuals who identify as LGBTQ+. These methods were precursors to modern conversion therapy. But the short drama goes beyond that to become a film that is about how fear of the ‘other,’ however it manifests, can destroy families, individuals, and relationships.
It accomplishes this through a simple yet effective narrative structure. The broad nature of the story makes it so it can be applied to any number of “other” groups, such as racial, ethnic, religious, sexuality, intellectual or physical abilities, etc., that have suffered and continue to suffer under torturous oppression driven by fear. With a runtime of 11-minutes, the film packs quite a bit in.
“…Bridget is scared and running from a white horse…”
A White Horse tells its simple story very well. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the editing is so smooth I didn’t even notice it. The acting from Deasy and Fenton is excellent. I felt the confusion and fear in Deasy’s voice and the pain and anxiety in Fenton’s performance.
My only criticism is that the ending is a bit too heavy-handed. By the time I got to the last shot, I already understood what happened. But O’Connor repeats it, adding some expository title cards to drive the point home. While I realize some people may need that extra push, it slightly undermined my experience with the film.
A White Horse is a gripping, personal experience of torture. It didn’t attempt to say much, but what it did say, it did so beautifully.
"…the cinematography is gorgeous, and the editing is so smooth..."