Set on an unnamed Scottish isle, Limbo centers on four resettled refugees in waiting: for asylum, for work, for opportunity, and for heavier coats. The wind blows constantly here, and there’s little to do beyond watching Friends DVDs or taking the social integration class run by a Scottish couple trying to help their new neighbors navigate employment and romantic cues. They’re well-meaning but misguided. It’s funny, but it’s also uncomfortable.
Limbo is loaded with those types of couplings. Omar (Amir El-Masry) is accepting of his plight but resigned. Housemate Farhad (Vikash Bhai) is also accepting but excited. The locals are welcoming and dismissive—often in the same breath. One resident insinuates that Omar is a terrorist but then offers him a ride to town.
Director Ben Sharrock and cinematographer Nick Cooke present Limbo as a series of mostly static shots framed in boxy Academy aspect ratio: an aesthetic that’s become vogue with art-house comedy and art-house horror movies. Limbo is a bit of both, with Omar endlessly wandering between the winds, his grandfather’s oud—a wooden stringed instrument related to the lute—in tow. Back in Syria, Omar was a gifted musician. Here, he doesn’t even play. But he brings the oud wherever he goes. It’s like a piece of cultural baggage everyone encourages Omar to embrace. Now streaming on HBO Max.
A version of the above review first appeared in Boulder Weekly Vol. 28, No. 37, “Deadpan double feature.”
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