Adam has it all – a beautiful wife and daughter and home, but one day he wakes up in a hostel for the homeless. How did he get there and how can he get his life back?
Gimme Shelter by Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Made by a director who has fifteen years experience working with the homeless, and consquently feeling very authentic, NFA is a disorienting cautionary tale of how quickly someone’s life can spiral out of control. The film opens with a man waking in a bare room, confused, not knowing where he is. It cuts to him in his happy family home. It’s his birthday, and he and his wife and little daughter are celebrating. He goes to sleep in his own bed – and wakes up confused in the bare hostel room, calling out for his wife.
That’s Rainbow’s technique, intercutting between then and now, before and after, in a series of flashes, if not flashbacks, that gradually over the length of the film unravels Adam’s memory loss and, in doing so, the puzzle of the film’s opening scenes becomes clear. Now homeless and penniless, Adam walks the streets, returning to his – to him – inexplicably empty home, not comprehending why it’s deserted. He’s conned and robbed – as he has no money, of just his shoes – by more experienced rough sleepers, and ends up wandering a Birmingham shopping precinct humiliatingly begging shoppers for spare change. He’s helped by hostel workers – some of the cast in this semi-documentary drama are non-actors – and eventually his memory returns. It’s clear now that he has had some kind of breakdown that caused him to lose his job as an estate agent, his home and his family.
NFA deals not only with homelessness but, in its twist at the end, with mental health issues. It explores the interrelationship between the two, what happens to a sufferer, how our society tries to deal with those two problems and the bureaucracy involved. Patrick Baladi is convincing in a role that requires him to be both a normal, successful family man and a disturbed and zombie-like shadow of that man. Saskia Butler, as his loving wife, shows love, concern, disillusion, and finally resignation mixed with caring, as it’s revealed that this episode is part of a pattern, not a one-off event as it initially appeared.
The direction aims to inject suspense and drama into what might otherwise be a story that is too downbeat and depressing to watch. Adam’s story is drawn from the experiences of many people that Rainbow worked with at a charity for the homeless in Birmingham. The film is clearly a very worthwhile endeavour – but with its one-note subject matter and short running time (74 minutes), it is not a natural for a theatrical release, though it would make a powerful training or public information film.
NFA (No Fixed Abode) is released on 29th November 2013 in the UK