N.F.A. (No Fixed Abode)
N.F.A. tries to bring these issues to the audience and vice versa, and I think it does a strong job of that with the recognisable actor Patrick Baladi in the lead and a good story that keeps the camera and the audience focused on our main character and his experience of these events rather than trying to leap back and look at the issues from a wider viewpoint, or trying to preach about the right and wrong.
Mental health illness is still viewed so negatively in this country. When I suffered from stress through one of my previous jobs the company labelled my record and every new role I applied for in that company carried an application form labelling stress as a permanent mental health problem, an incorrect labelling but even having to highlight that box without any further explanation is dropping the massive number of people in the UK suffering from mental health issues into one very dark and negative looking box, and it's a negative attitude that is apparent throughout the UK.
Then there's the attitude towards the homeless, often taking one viewpoint and moving every homeless person into another neat single box and pushing them to one side, and once in that box there's a terrible fight against prejudice to get out and start getting on track again.
So it's great to see a film looking at these two issues without making it something huge, something about politics or society as a whole and instead keeping it personal. Instead the film looks at one man's story, a man who seems to be not too distant from the average audience member and never distances itself too much from them. It delivers a good insight into homelessness and how it feels for someone caught up in its vicious cycle. It delivers explanation and understanding and lets you see it from the inside, rather than one of the people walking by on the outside suspicious and uncertain.
You can see some great examples of how the film incorporates the beliefs through various scenes in the film, looking to the scene in the bus shelter with the two men asking each other for help and later when our lead is asking people for just a little bit of change, both scenes will spark something inside you and shows both sides of the same situation, first from the audience's viewpoint and then from the inside with the understanding of where the man is and why he's asking. It provides a powerful few moments.
It isn't all about how we treat these issues on an individual level though as we do gain an understanding of how both are treated and dealt with by the UK Government and charities, or in some cases not dealt with as bureaucracy covers facts and figures rather than looking to the people and their needs.
While the bigger messages are covered well I felt there were some problems with the film and they started quite early. The score is a little overpowering to begin with and I feel it would have had much more impact in later scenes if it had started more muted to allow us to focus on the lead and his experience.
The story itself is also a little confusing at the opening until you start to realise how it is playing out you share the confusion of the lead. While some might think that this is a negative I felt otherwise, it's actually a positive as it brings the confusion of the lead character to the audience, still it is a little hard to follow during the early stages. The main character doesn't help either as sometimes he does appear to make rather frustrating choices but again the story builds itself to explain these but it didn't clear all the moments where I was rather frustrated at his naivety and his strange decisions, and in a few cases it's not just the lead that you are left wondering as to their motives and decisions.
The film is a little clunky at times with some scenes dragging on a little too long and it could have done with a sharper edit just to help it move forward a little more smoothly. It's here, and in the filming itself that you'll notice the smaller budget of the production and this is often a reason for an audience to turn away from a film thinking, incorrectly, that it is a sign of a bad film, and it isn't with N.F.A..
The acting isn't wonderful but again this is a sign of the lower budget in the case of the smaller supporting roles. The lead of Patrick Baladi is good and he stands above the rest of the cast, and it's a strong decision to make the lead more recognisable for his television roles as that not only elevates the acting where required but also allows for a further connection from the audience to the leading character.
One last issue I had with the film was the ending, or rather the double ending. When we first think we're at the ending it's a strong moment and you might just think you have a handle on the story with some understanding of Adam and his life, but the additional ending does slightly harm the good the film has done by confusing the audience and distancing them once again from the main character. I do feel that if we'd been given just the first part of the ending that perhaps the film would have the strongest message to tell and in the better way. As it is the message is still there, just a little muddied.
N.F.A. may be a lower budget independent film but it has a strong message to deliver to audiences about homelessness and mental health and the way that we treat people who suffer from both. It may, actually it should, give you a different perspective and understanding of just what it means to be homeless in the UK away from the pigeon holed image of the professional beggar.
The film presents its messages without preaching and without losing the audience as it takes you inside the problems, taking the audience to those affected and bridging that often felt gap between them and those affected by the issues. While it does have faults and could to with polishing the edges of the story, this film has an important message to be seen and heard. First time feature writer Scott Rainbow and all those associated with the film should be proud of what they've achieved with this film.