Most of the films we have seen about the situation of migrants and refugees in Europe in recent years are gritty, often heart-wrenching dramas and documentaries. “Limbo,” written and directed by ferociously talented filmmaker Ben Sharrock, takes an insinuating, poetic and often ironic approach. And it is both heartbreaking and moving.
Amir El-Masry plays Omar, a young Syrian asylum seeker in Britain. He and a group of other refugee men have been dropped off on a remote Scottish island while their claims are being processed. How far? A scene at the start of the film shows Omar in a phone booth, talking to his mother, as two other men wait for him to finish his conversation. They all have cell phones, but there are no bars. (The film was shot in the Outer Hebrides.)
There are, however, ‘cultural awareness’ classes, taught by two comedic raised instructors who mimic close-up dancing (to a hot chocolate song) to demonstrate dos and don’ts when interacting with students. women from Europe.
Omar’s estrangement is on several levels. In his native land he was a famous musician, an oud player, a type of lute. Just like his father, who is now in Istanbul with Omar’s mother, and is playing in the streets for a change. Omar did not touch his instrument because he has had a hand in a casting since he left his homeland. When the cast comes off, he settles his oud and fears it doesn’t sound right.
It’s not like he doesn’t have any boosters. One of his roommates, Farhad (Vikash Bhai), a comrade with two fanatical passions, those who are chickens and Freddie Mercury, offers to be his manager, and tries to book him “an evening of Syrian music”.
“They put us here in the middle of nowhere to try to break us,” complains one of Omar’s comrades. But there are other factors weighing on Omar. His brother stayed in Syria, to fight in his civil war. His parents somehow pull him into their conversations. Omar goes for long walks aimlessly, wearing the oud he will not play. Flat green fields and large open sky frame its silhouette (the film is mostly presented in a square format) to make it seem like its constant isolation.
If you’ve spent any time in the Scottish Isles, you know these are places where time seems to have stood still. The setting here constructs a powerful metaphor for the protagonist’s predicament. With a bit of cinematic sleight of hand, the film becomes more expansive once Omar decides to broaden his horizon.
Rated R for the language. Duration: 1 hour 43 minutes. In theaters. Please review the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies in theaters.