It’s a struggle to think of a movie about blindness that doesn’t use the subject for comedic or horrific effect. Blindness, maybe. Ray, of course. Or there’s Daredevil. Typically, however, blind characters are consigned to supporting roles: there was Vesuvius in The LEGO Movie, opting counter-intuitively for the job of look-out, and Mr. Burns in The Mummy, who lost his eyes to Imhotep after invoking the creature’s curse — in summary nothing that can be said to accurately reflect or actively explore the difficulties and issues unique to a modern blind man or woman. Enter Greyhawk.
As the film quickly establishes, Mal isn’t a mystic, the victim of a resurrected Egyptian prince or even a lawyer turned superhero, he’s just a regular guy trying to live a normal life. We meet Mal in bed with a prostitute, see him getting ready to move house, and follow him to his local pub for a quick drink to start the day. The only obvious sign that he’s blind — apart from the sunglasses he often wears — is the dog that leads the way, though Quince acts as more of a friend than a leader. After all, as we learn later on, he’s a pretty useless guide dog. It’s clear from the outset that Mal is a very capable man, and once Quince is out of the picture we learn that he’s pretty much self-sufficient too.
A good thing, really, as Mal doesn’t seem to have friends or a family, positively balking at the friendship of Howard (Jack Shepherd). Disenfranchised by the Armed Forces and sick of being seen as an invalid by those around him, he has spurned society and resolved to do everything by himself. It’s only natural then that he should strike out to find Quince on his own. Alec Newman is incredibly convincing in the leading role, though his dogged determination does make him difficult to warm to. While he does soften towards the end of the film (thanks to an equally fine turn from Telford) there is still a distinct edge to the character.
Where Greyhawk falls down is in its central mystery. Without trying to condescend its lead character — Mal makes great progress, and against considerable odds — the suspense produced by this supposed thriller is still a little bit lacking. The resolution in particular is almost laughably meek, though it does admittedly fit with the overall themes: that while there may be bad in everyone, they are also capable of acts of real kindness. It’s just a shame that director Guy Pitt couldn’t have pushed for a little more tension, as there is always the sense that you should be feeling more engaged my Mal’s plight than you actually are.
While not as thrilling as it might have been, Greyhawk is still a competent and occasionally compelling Brit-flick. Nicely scripted by Matt Pitt, the director’s brother, the film deals with its subject matter sensitively and with real insight. It’ll be interesting to see what they do next.