No Fixed Abode

No Fixed Abode


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Adam's world has become an alien place overnight. When he climbed into bed, he was a successful family man, who had just celebrated his birthday with his pregnant wife Jane and young daughter Holly, and topped off his evening with a nice glass of wine. He awakens to find himself alone in a spartan room, with no possessions but the clothes he's standing up in. Understandably frightened, he quickly discovers he is in a hostel for homeless men, with no idea how he got there and heads out to try to find what happened to his life.

Although this sounds like a Kafkaesque set up, Steve Rainbow's film is firmly rooted in the real world - or, at least, Adam's perception of it. Through flashbacks, we come to learn how he came to be in this predicament and see him try to cope with his new-found surroundings.

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Rainbow, who worked with homeless people for years and who therefore knows the territory, has bitten off a lot here - both attempting to explore what it means to be homeless in modern Britain and to examine how mental health issues can become a factor in that. He should be commended for trying to raise the issues with a wider audience - certainly, there is no dispute that psychological problems can contribute, as explored in recent documentaries Isolation and Looking Back.

But by attempting to look at both issues simultaneously, especially with a thriller-style spin, the film feels torn. The scenario would probably have worked more successfully as a two or three-part BBC miniseries, where the ideas could be explored more thoroughly.

Some of the set-ups also feel rather forced. Would no one in Adam's former street recognise his attempts to get back into the house he once owned? Even if you believe the over-stretched police wouldn't knock on the doors of his 'neighbours', surely Adam - alone and desperate to locate his family - would be virtually canvassing the street? He's also, for a man we are intended to believe is so mentally lost that he can barely remember his past, surprisingly well turned out and coherent in his dealings with others, presumably so that the audience stay on the side of this 'average' middle-class Joe. Despite the niggles, however, Rainbow does succeed in articulating the confusion that can come with being homeless, immersing us in Adam's universe so that we, like him, begin to lose track of time.

License is taken in terms of the narrative but for those prepared to accept the plot and character contrivances, there's much to enjoy in Patrick Baladi's central performance. He is the hub around which the rest of the film spins, so his ability to keep his character believable and sympathetic is crucial, and he succeeds in encapsulating a sense of bewilderment and fear. Sadly, the other homeless characters feel very one note by comparison and the acting from some of the supporting cast is sufficiently weak enough to throw you out of the movie's universe. Some may also find the final scenes overworked and frustrating in their ambivalence but there's enough here to suggest we'll be seeing more from Rainbow in the future.

Reviewed on: 20 Jul 2012
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A man wakes up to a homeless nightmare.
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Director: Steve Rainbow

Writer: Steve Rainbow

Starring: Patrick Baladi, David Sterne, Saskia Butler, David Proud

Year: 2012

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2012

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If you like this, try:

Looking Back
Lost Angels