Review: ‘Limbo’ is an immigrant tale destined to outlive its time


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Improbably reassuring associated with laughter’s healing properties, “Limbo, ” the resplendent second feature-length brainchild from writer-director Ben Sharrock, is an greatly funny and profound tragicomedy centered on a group of refugees trapped on a barren Scottish tropical isle awaiting decisions on their asylum requests.

Showing off a pink cast on his immobilized right hand, Omar (Amir El-Masry), a Syrian musician famous back home for playing the oud, the Middle Eastern stringed instrument, is a recent arrival. Calls made from a phone booth to his relocated mother and father in Istanbul reveal the schism with his older brother Nabil, who stayed back to fight for the homeland.

Omar drags the large oud case, both a link in order to his loved ones and a combination weighing him down, where ever he goes. With his hand, and spirits, out of percentage to practice, Omar ponders his father’s words: “A music performer who doesn’t play is usually dead. ”


Restricted from working, he goes by the time befriending Farhad (Vikash Bhai), a kindhearted Afghan Freddie Mercury lookalike who also appoints himself Omar’s real estate agent and manager. Two African brothers, fond of watching and arguing over the ’90s sitcom “Friends, ” complete the particular eclectic housemate foursome on the government-provided temporary lodging.

Akin in sculpt to the deadpan hilarity associated with American indies such as “ The Station Real estate agent ” or Wes Anderson’s oeuvre , the film also features mild undertones reminiscent of Bill Wheatley’s chuckle-inducing darkness. Sharrock’s balance of tone is definitely immaculate — and wonderful without downplaying the characters’ precarious circumstances.

That he channels empathic concern for those fleeing war plus economic deprivation, as well as ardent drama and subdued lyricism into a singular film amounts to a stroke of storytelling genius.

Such as its bureaucratically embattled and sometimes invisible heroes, the story occupies a liminal area somewhere between the downbeat truth of displacement, racism plus Islamophobia, and mournful dreamlike sequences. The director maximizes the inherently surreal elements of this purgatory at the intersection of safety in European countries and the looming threat of deportation.

A marvelously guarded El-Masry, an Egyptian-born actor seen in “ The Rise of Skywalker , ” keeps a reserved, almost emotionless calmness that only breaks when Bhai’s matter-of-fact earnestness can make him smile. Understandably dejected, El-Masry’s Omar traverses guilt and self-doubt to regain appreciation for his ability, a valuable method to preserve their people’s culture. Only then can he enjoy small doses of comfort, like this in a familiar spice.

Within the boxy element ratio, cinematographer Nick Cooke’s exact compositions illustrate the particular story’s marked contrasts in between a sense of community, found in discussed hardship, and the soul-crushing isolation of individual experience. Structures crowded with the four men expectantly waiting for the email differ sharply from those people containing sparse winter scenery. There’s a purposeful feeling of place.

Humor in “Limbo” suspension springs from a phenomenal screenplay that peddles neither condescending compassion nor misery exploitation. The particular gags instead target the particular locals, most well-intentioned but ignorant. Scenes during an ethnic awareness course to motivate assimilation reveal more about the particular reluctant hosts’ xenophobic preconceptions than the new arrivals’ perceived foreignness.

Sharrock writes intricately, filing the particular crevices of his idea with intimate details, anecdotes, and instances of poetic yearning, all of which configure the fact of these characters adrift in the ocean of the West’s indifference. An underlying bittersweet sentiment prevails up to the movie’s appropriately moderate climax, which dispenses by having an idealized future or a perfectly wrapped entrance into the guaranteed land for Omar.


An offbeat and life-affirming triumph, “ Limbo ” is the type of original work of art that moves the needle on an concern by delving into the individual factor rather than hanging out in the impersonal surface. A movie born of our times but destined to outlive them, it deserves to cross the particular threshold from festival darling to audience favorite.


In English and Arabic with English subtitles

Rated: R, for vocabulary

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Playing: Starts April 30 generally release where theaters are open