Limbo is the cultural disconnect between a refugee and where he’s taking refuge, as these men are stuck in a seemingly endless purgatory on a small fictional Scottish island. It’s a film that so accurately depicts the sort of assumptions, racism, and utter nonsense these people face on a daily basis, showing the type of privileged stupidity that allows one but disallows the other. Seeing refugees treated as simpletons needing to be elevated to be a part of their “sophisticated” society that, in reality, is a bunch of meatheads with no common sense, shows the domineering attitudes as ignorant.
It’s frustrating. For example, the opening scene is a hilarious bit in the refugee assimilation class where Sidse Babett Knudsen teaches them how to appropriately approach a woman when the example goes haywire and turns weirdly horny. The reverse shot of this is a group of refugees in sheer disgust over this naive desire to teach them as if understanding is the problem. It’s a film that shows people as unwilling to engage with someone different, and suffocates them in a closed-off society not willing to meet them even a quarter of the way. It has these men held at farther than arm’s length.
Furthermore, Omar (Amir El Masry), the main character, deals with the isolation, his family disappointments, and all the racist attitudes. The performance is strong, hidden in silence, but hiding his anger in his eyes. It’s not a distinct performance, but gets the themes across with his upset disposition. My favorite actor of the film was undoubtedly Farhad (Vikash Bhai) as Omar’s roommate, who is madly obsessed with Freddie Mercury. His performance is wonderful, adding a bit of comedy to an ever worsening situation and presenting his idiosyncratic personality to ease off the depression. He even adopts a chicken that he names Freddie.
The remoteness of the setting shows in the cinematography and the shots tell a broad story not solely aligned with just Omar but the larger scope of the refugee crisis. The editing conveys a sense of nothing. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. No one to meet. In his directorial debut, Ben Sharrock displays a hellish world, shrouded in fog and living in a constant fear of deportation. The atmosphere of meaninglessness is painted in the film’s gray color palette and the lifeless aesthetic.
However, the script can be a bit taxing and leaves many scenes without dialogue. It’s standard static compositions that tell the story in the fact that no changes happen to the characters. It’s purposefully slow but that doesn’t always work for the engagement of the film and keeping people focused on the themes.
★★★½/ Out of 5★s (82)