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Sofa Surfer (2022) Review: Skilfully Re-examining the Meaning of ‘Home’ for a Homeless Man

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Sofa Surfer (2022) Review: According to the latest statistics released by the UK government, the country has seen a gradual decline in the number of people rough sleeping at night, which still amounts to approximately 2440 people sleeping on the street as surveyed for one autumn night in 2021. Further, the data also shows that the larger share of this rough sleeping population includes British men over the age of 26 years, while the ratio of women to men rough sleepers is at 1:6.

While these numbers look grim enough, it will startle us to imagine that the problem had reached its peak during 2017 when around 4750 people were found to be rough sleeping. However, there seems to be another kind of rough sleeping that has become a part of the socio-cultural set-up in the UK – sofa surfing – and is currently believed to be the largest form of homelessness in the UK.

What is sofa surfing, you ask? It is a form of temporary sleeping over at someone’s place for a period of a minimum of one night at no cost for availing of the basics of accommodation – food, water, washroom, and bedding. Think of taking a vacation to another city where you stay over at a friend or relative’s place for a couple of nights free of cost. Sofa surfing, also known as couch surfing, is practised by homeless people who go from sleeping on someone’s couch to sleeping on another’s couch. Director Michele Olivieri’s 12-minutes-long short, Sofa Surfer, gives us a glimpse into the life of a sofa surfer and the politics of an ever-shifting ‘home’, especially in a pandemic-ridden world.

Sofa Surfer 2022
When we enter the film, it is night and our protagonist, Rob, played by Tom Dayton, is in search of a place to crash for the night. He barely has any essentials on himself except a cell phone that he is using to dial-up people he knows. He is rejected twice; he looks desperate. Rob finally manages to persuade his friend Carl, played by James Campbell-Warner, to let him sofa surf at his place.

Carl is an enthusiastic host and welcomes Rob to stay with him, informing him that his roommate isn’t here for a few days. However, in exchange, he urges Rob to do something that is the reason for his nightmares. Does Rob successfully fight his demons or give in to them just because Carl is helping him with a place for the night? Oliveiri’s short is about the resilience of a sofa surfer. However, it doesn’t shy away from showing us how difficult resilience is to garner, which makes this short a commendable effort.

We come to know that Rob is a recovering drug addict. We are also free to assume here that Rob’s current state of homelessness may have been a repercussion of his drug-induced habits; however, there are no tell-tale signs of the same in the short. Dayton plays his part sincerely. However, Campbell-Warner’s acting, especially when transforming into Rob’s campy nightmare, seems a little over the top. I think my favourite character in this short is the city itself and how it has been used.

When we enter the film, it is teeming with people, but when we are exiting the film, it seems to lie asleep. The street is empty, and buildings stand in comfortable silence. It is, as if, intentionally unaware of the state of the homeless. Perhaps, the city is a political double for the government. In any case, the short clearly tells us that not only people make cities but vice versa because, in a city teeming with houses, Rob has no shelter.

Sofa Surfer gives us a glimpse into the possible reality of a sofa surfer in the UK, a reality that many of us aren’t possibly familiar with because of our socio-economic comforts. Here, there is a complex politics of ‘home’-making. While Rob is continually engaged in the act of moving from one person’s couch to another, his idea of home – a place of security and peace – is not one where he can find the best amenities for free but one where he is safe from the temptations of his previous life (read: drug addiction).

‘Sofa Surfer’ help us study Rob’s character succinctly. Oliveri’s filmmaking is inspired by Wong Kar-Wai; it shows in the cinematography of his engaging short. Sofa Surfer focuses on a specific period of action, a few couples of hours over one chilly night in a city, but it superbly etches out the experience for us. Who knows, maybe Rob was dreaming about his possible experience as a sofa surfer in a drug-induced state? Whatever it may be, it makes for an intriguing watch!

Watch Sofa Surfer (2022) on Filmzie for free

Cast: Tom Dayton, James Campbell-Warner
Director: Michele Olivieri
Written by Kim Taylor
Production company: Michele Olivieri, Kim Taylor
Genre: Drama, Short
Released: 2022

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