Written, produced and directed by Stefan Georgiou, David arrives in London with dreams of becoming a somebody, but when things don’t go to plan he starts to slip between the cracks of the city he loves so much. Starring: Mat Laroche, Hannah Emanuel, Sarah Niles, Will Kenning, Hannah Banerjee and Comfort Fabian.
The film opens with a longing look and a sad yet romantic overture (by Harry Brokensha) which immediately gives David (Laroche) a very relatable, sympathetic and sweet quality, but also brings through a sense of loneliness as Georgiou follows it up with a journeying view of grey, London streets. When you look at the film as a whole, it was a very interesting choice to start out the film this way as it has countless possibilities and it’s unlikely anyone would be able to accurately predict where it was headed but what it cleverly does is present David as your average guy and stops from you prejudging his character before you find out more. Setting off on that neutral footing makes what is to follow even more effective.
Things then slowly take a turn, Georgiou introduces more light and Brokensha’s score becomes more hopeful as it reveals David’s passion for cycling around the city he loves. There’s something so artfully simple about it, letting the city unfold around you but a lot of that strong atmosphere comes from the brilliant direction and superb cinematography (by Keidrych Wasley). The visual is genuinely strong enough that you could quite possibly have made this film without any dialogue and it still would have worked, it builds the emotion of the story wonderfully through this smooth, sweeping view of London’s streets blended with showing David’s moments of happiness. It creates a serenity, that draws you in but at the same time you can feel these lingering unsaid issues that slowly become clearer. It gradually delves into David’s struggle with mental health, it brings out all the emotions that the score has been hinting at, but it does so in a way that’s subtle and respectful, it shows that there’s more to him than his mental health problems. Part of that is a result of Edward Coltman’s editing work, moving back and forth through different sides of David’s personality, it creates a very layered feel to the film.
The story presents a great way to open a discussion on mental health and how vital it is to have support systems in place, and with the tumultuous world that we currently live in, it has become an even more crucial conversation. This film brings that through in a way that’s accessible, to explore the fact that it’s a complicated, sensitive and important issue. Perhaps the most impressive factor in how it deals with the subject is that it’s not all doom and gloom, it doesn’t spend its entire focus on the depression element to his story, the writing let’s it retain this sense of hope throughout, of a life that could have gone differently with support and help. The writing creates a very graceful way to present this issue, it’s a heavy topic to explore within 15-minutes, but it moves in such a manner that draws out the necessary emotion and infers the larger conversation without having to overtly say it or stray into unnecessary melodrama. However, that’s not to say it doesn’t up the dramatics when necessary to push that final message of being there for people who need it and not allowing them to spiral inwards until they destroy themselves.
Laroche’s performance as David is very restrained, similar to the writing, it remains understated and thoughtful until it reaches its peak and then you get this intense burst of emotion and drama which he brings through in a heart-breaking fashion. Laroche sincerely brings through the complex nature to his character, you can see his struggle but at the same time he’s just a lonely guy with a crush and it’s very endearing to watch. It’s great to see an appearance from Sarah Niles (Happy-Go-Lucky, I May Destroy You, Rocks), she has such a strong presence and that’s hugely to the advantage of this film because she has a brief role near the end but it’s a pivotal moment and one that she pulls off wonderfully.
Guide Me Home is graceful, thoughtful and visually superb, it takes an important topic and handles it with sensitivity and respect. It impressively deals with a dark subject without falling into a hole of despair, it embraces the larger picture and the complexity by holding onto a sense of hope. Mat Laroche does a terrific job of bringing through all the different sides to David and giving him a very authentic feel. The direction, editing and cinematography all work together brilliantly to portray the film’s intricacies and subtleties, topping it off with a very emotional score that rounds out the experience elegantly. There’s no rush to the finish line, it takes its time and slowly builds to create a meaningful exploration of mental health.