NFA (2012)

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I went into NFA thinking that it was about the issue of homelessness and time spent in hostels (the title refers to the abbreviation for No Fixed Abode) but it turned out to be about much more than that.

Adam Smith (Patrick Baladi) is a successful man with a loving wife and daughter. It’s his birthday and he enjoys the evening with their company and some wine. Things take a major turn for the worse the next day when he wakes up in a hostel room with no idea of how he got there.

NFA is a fantastic film, absolutely fantastic. The fact that it just can’t manage to be 100% successful from start to finish is only due to the way in which the audience is always one or two steps ahead of Adam and there’s an ending that’s as potentially frustrating as it is superb – the very last line of the film is so loaded with poignancy that it continued to echo in my mind for days afterwards. If it reminds people of something that I’ve been saying for a long, long time – “essentially, we’re all just one bad day away from homelessness” – then it’s a worthwhile film but it also looks at the behavioural problems that can lead to, and be caused by, homelessness.

As the elements wear you down and the hours and days bleed into one another, sanity becomes frayed while the body is pushed way beyond its comfort zone. The movie shows this in a well-balanced way, through a number of episodes that show the kindness of some people and the danger and/or opportunism of others. It also, albeit briefly, shows just how frustrating the system can be for someone probably more in need of help than others who have fallen between the cracks.

Writer/director Steve Rainbow deserves plenty of credit for creating such an effective movie that explores the main issue with sensitivity but he can also thank the cast for portraying their characters in a sympathetic way. Patrick Baladi is easier to believe at the very beginning of the movie, as the successful and confident man that he’s played before, than he is during the first scenes of his confused homeless experience but as things get worse and worse for him he really starts to show cracks in his cool demeanour and the movie is improved by just how ill-equipped his character is for the circumstances. It’s a strong performance and Baladi acquits himself very well, important considering that he’s in pretty much every scene of the movie. David Sterne and David Proud do well in supporting roles but the other great performance in the movie comes from Saskia Butler playing Adam’s wife. Shown in both the present time and in flashback, she may not have all that much screentime but her character makes quite an emotional impact, showing the other side of the equation while Adam tries to figure out what he has to do to get home.

If you watch NFA and can’t identify with anything in the movie, if you think none of it rings true and if you can roll your eyes and just kill time until the end credits roll then I’d have to assume that you’ve been fortunate enough to have a life that’s kept you far, far away from moments of real danger, sadness, self-detruction and darkness. If that’s the case then you are one very lucky individual indeed, and long may it continue. For anyone else who can identify with aspects of the movie, I recommend this as a worthwhile watch that may well (as it did for me) resonate within you long after the credits roll.

WRITER/DIRECTOR: STEVE RAINBOW
STARS: PATRICK BALADI, DAVID STERNE, SASKIA BUTLER, DAVID PROUD
RUNTIME: 80 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: UK

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

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