Guy Pitt’s debut feature Greyhawk takes place on a London housing estate. Mal, a blind ex-soldier (the excellent Scottish actor Alec Newman), is playing fetch with his guide dog. On the third throw of the squeaky ball, his dog does not return. An escalating moment of anxiety (‘Anxiety has no upper limit.’ – Roman Polanski). The dog has been stolen. And so the determined man, who’s carrying quite a bit of barely pent-up anger anyway, must venture into the scheme to get his companion back.
The filmmaking is assured, using the frame, and the focus, to give a stylised sense of the limitations of its hero’s perceptions, and there’s some arresting architectural framing, positioning the central location as antagonist. Greyhawk is at its best using the tense dramatic premise, which you can’t help invest in emotionally, as a means of exploring character. As a study of anomie it’s not entirely convincing: it feels less intimately familiar with its story world than something like Attack the Block, even though its intentions are more serious. Some people might even be offended by the suggestion that so many people on one housing estate would be so unsympathetic to a disabled person’s plight. But the combination of an interesting, defiantly un-ingratiating central figure, strong support from Zoë Telford and Jack Shepherd, and a nerve-racking situation, make the movie a compelling experience. – The detective story aspect of Mal’s investigation is cleverly scripted, just barely avoiding too neat a feeling of contrivance, while continually throwing difficulties in his path.
Greyhawk is one of several imaginative British features screening at EIFF (including opening film Hyena), offering encouraging signs of life and the possibility that this year’s Michael Powell Award for best British film might conceivably go to something Powell would have recognised as cinema.
Watch the trailer: