Written by Anna Harrison
A White Horse takes its time as it unfurls, taking the old adage “show, don’t tell” to heart. Director Shaun O’Connor and writer Paul Cahill tread lightly, giving the audience flashes of insight that eventually add up to a heartbreaking conclusion, one handled with deftness and empathy; they never spell out exactly what is going on in The White Horse, and its impact is stronger for it.
The film largely follows one conversation between Bridget (Amber Deasy) and her mother (Cora Fenton). Bridget has escaped from a psychiatric hospital and found her way to a phone booth, where she calls home to talk to her parents. The close-up shots create a feeling of claustrophobia and confusion, never letting us fully orient to the world around us—especially for Bridget, cramped in that small phone booth. The actors give excellent performances, conveying the complicated family bonds with the subtlest of gestures, and adding a sense of desperation to the short.
A White Horse serves as a harsh reminder about certain aspects of mental healthcare we would rather sweep under the rug; though A White Horse is set in the 1970s, its message—very, very unfortunately—still rings true today, and the gut punch of an ending refuses to let us forget that.
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