Truth and Movies

Sulphur and White

Review by Jess Duffy

Directed by

Julian Jarrold

Starring

Anna Friel Emily Beecham Mark Stanley

Anticipation.

A promising cast line up for this British drama.

Enjoyment.

A valiant effort that just doesn’t come together in the execution.

In Retrospect.

An important story but doesn’t leave a lasting impression.

A successful man struggles to come to terms with traumatic events from his past in Julian Jarrold’s ineffective drama.

David (Mark Stanley) is your classic overconfident city boy, a workaholic with a slick smooth veneer who does everything to the extreme. He attempts to impress ostentatious boss Jeff (Alistair Petrie) with his work hard, party hard antics and relentlessly pursues work colleague Vanessa (Emily Beecham) while he’s still married.

As David eventually builds a shiny new life with Vanessa, the cracks begin to show in his emotional facade as he battles with the memories of the abuse he suffered throughout his childhood and subsequently spirals into self-destruction.

Through a series of flashbacks, we’re shown the relationship dynamic between David, his mother (Anna Friel) and his father (Dougray Scott) in addition to the harsh environment that allowed his abuse to begin and then escalate. Scott’s utterly chilling demeanour as David’s overbearing dad shows glimmers of brilliance, but really should have been allowed more time to percolate as it feels as if we were just scraping the surface of this horribly intriguing character.

Julian Jarrold’s Sulphur and White illustrates the lasting impact that childhood abuse can have not only on its victims, but also those around them. It never resorts to trauma porn but does deal with the subject in a predictable and ultimately forgettable way.

For a story arc that relies so heavily on Vanessa’s love in helping David overcome his past, the relationship between them feels emotionally lacking, and the actors are let down by a combination of clunky writing and a score that overpowers poignant moments to the point of bordering on theatricality.

The result is that you don’t feel much grieved by the fact that their life together could fall apart, and as such, the film’s would-be redemptive parting shot fails to make much of an impact.

Published 5 Mar 2020

Tags: Emily Beecham Julian Jarrold Mark Stanley

Anticipation.

A promising cast line up for this British drama.

Enjoyment.

A valiant effort that just doesn’t come together in the execution.

In Retrospect.

An important story but doesn’t leave a lasting impression.

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