Ed Perkins / UK / 2014 / 76 mins
Garnet Frost is waiting for his life to begin. It’s been a long wait – 58 years at the time of filming. Garnet is intelligent, creative, charismatic, energetic, passionate, innovative. Indeed, he has all the qualities normally associated with success. The success itself has still not arrived.
Director Ed Perkins’s splendid documentary uses Garnet’s latest project, a quixotic trek through the Highlands in search of hidden gold, as the basis for a compelling meditation on unfulfilled potential and deferred dreams. Affectionate tributes from friends, an ex and Garnet’s wonderfully puckish mother, piece together a complex portrait of a man whose gifts far exceed his accomplishments. It is Garnet himself who provides the most eloquent insight, as he speaks with heart-rending honesty about a life that has largely passed him by.
For a film that features so many talking heads, Garnet’s Gold looks astonishingly beautiful. The footage of the Highlands is, of course, particularly breathtaking but in a neat parallel, Perkins has intercut these sequences with confessional monologues from Garnet. The dramatic lighting, extreme close ups and intense detail effectively turn the man’s face into a landscape no less ruggedly beautiful than the hills, and inexorably link him to the destination where he seeks his misplaced dreams.