Greyhawk (2014), the debut feature from Guy Pitt, takes a simple premise and unravels it slowly under the ominous shadow of a dilapidated London council estate. The modest tale of a blind man who loses his guide dog, Pitt’s drama attempts to confront our preconceptions towards disability but in doing so completely misrepresents an entire layer of society. Mal Walker (Alec Newman) is a disillusioned, cantankerous army veteran who, after losing his sight in Afghanistan, has chosen a life of solitude – except, of course, for Quincy, his loyal guide dog. “Quincy is a shit guide dog,” Mal remarks during one scene, though the support and friendship he provides makes him the closest thing to family he has.
When Quincy goes missing one afternoon, an heartbroken Mal understandably finds himself helpless and alone. Believing that one of the local kids from the neighbouring estate has stolen him, our sympathetic protagonist sets out on a mission through this imposing concrete jungle to find his best friend and sole companion. Greyhawk boast some solid performances and successfully engages with the audience from the get go. The film’s representation of sight loss is also commendable, eschewing common conceptions of how blindness should be conveyed (such as blurring the peripheral edges of the screen and fading in and out of darkness) and instead focusing intently on single objects to amplify the sensual way one goes about mapping their surrounding without the granted capability of sight.
Sadly, Greyhawk’s misrepresentation of the working-class gives the impression that Pitt is paying lip service to one group whilst vilifying another. Stealing a guide dog and hiding it within a council estate is such a heinous crime that the film has to work incredibly hard to substantiate the malevolence of its antagonists. Thus, the creeping sense of horror which permeates the stonewash grey aesthetic is lazily produced through the defamation of youth culture. The council estate has recently become the setting of choice for many contemporary British genre flicks. And yet, instead of mirroring the economic disparity of a society where the disadvantaged are ignored, they’re used as tools to support a prevailing climate of fear, defaming the victims rather than the perpetrators. Greyhawk, though well-meaning, is no different in this respect, offering an irresponsible depiction of estate life that only acts to perpetuate the ghettoisation of the forgotten.
The 68th Edinburgh Film Festival takes place from 18-29 June 2014. For more of our EIFF coverage, follow this link.