Based on a real event in the late 50s in South Australia: when a 9-year-old girl is found raped and murdered in a cave at Ceduna beach not far from Adelaide, police arrest Aboriginal Max Stuart (David Ngoombujarra), who signs a confession under duress, after claiming to be innocent of the crime. Local Irish migrant lawyer David O’Sullivan (Robert Carlyle) and partner Helen Devaney (Kerry Fox) are assigned to the hopeless case as legal aid defence lawyers. Prosecutor Roderic Chamberlain (Charles Dance) believes the police version of the story, but O’Sullivan drags the case all the way to the Privy Council in England. The extended crusade by a young Rupert Murdoch (Ben Mendelsohn) at The News finally embarrasses the into action, but justice still remains skewed against Stuart.
 

2.5
One man's conviction divided a nation.

In 1959 an aboriginal man Max Stuart was arrested for the rape and murder of a young girl on the beach at Ceduna South Australia. His trial and subsequent appeals became a cause celebre... it was never a case of black and white...

When lawyer David O'Sullivan (Robert Carlyle) is assigned to defend Max Stuart (David Ngoombujarra), he has no idea that his involvement will lead him on a collision course with the police and with the justice system. He learns that Max's confession has been beaten out of him, that his confession is one he could not possibly have made, this with the help of Father Tom Dixon (Colin Friels). But the entrenched racism of the times makes Max's conviction a foregone conclusion, particularly with that bastion of the establishment, Crown Solicitor Roderic Chamberlain (Charles Dance) leading the case for the prosecution. O'Sullivan's refusal to accept the verdict, his desperate search for a basis for appeal will not only involve his law partner Helen Devaney (Kerry Fox) and the young Rupert Murdoch (Ben Mendelsohn) and Rohan Rivett (John Gregg), the editor of the Adelaide Advertiser, but will take him on a journey to the highest court in the system – the Privy Council in England.

Black and White explores this fascinating and seminal piece of Australian history in a rather old-fashioned way. Dialogue is delivered in a declamatory style that just seems clunky, giving scenes a distinct lack of credibility. While director Craig Lahiff has a good sense of visual style his handling of performances is disappointing. The only ones to emerge with distinction are Ben Mendelsohn, John Gregg and David Ngoombujarra.

Comments From David Stratton: This should have been a fascinating Australian film on an important theme, but the treatment is surprisingly prosaic and some of the key performances aren't very interesting. Robert Carlyle and Kerry Fox seem a bit bored with it all, and Charles Dance overacts appallingly. On the plus side, David Ngoombajarra is really touching as the man accused of murder.