DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema
Director - Ben Sharrock - 2020

"Greasy movie"
Refugee crisis drama is a deft blend of the humorous and the dramatic - British movie premieres at the BFI London Film Festival (and it's soon on Mubi)

Based on its imagery and synopsis, Limbo may appear to be a grim piece of social realism; a Loachian call to action in the vein of I, Daniel Blake (2016) or Sorry We Missed You (2019). However, Ben Sharrock’s film is a quirkier affair than that, with shades of Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, 1983) and Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987).

The story concerns Omar (Amir El-Masry), a young Syrian refugee sent to a remote Scottish island to await the outcome of his asylum request. There, he meets a cross-section of the refugee crisis, all of them young single men from places such as Afghanistan, Nigeria and the Middle East.

These characters put a human face on the crisis. “There is better signal in the middle of the Mediterranean,” laments one African man as he observes the harsh Scottish terrain. Indeed, there is an elemental force in Limbo; the breeze, the cold and the emptiness cast a stark pathetic fallacy over the men’s purgatory. The titular limbo has lasted 32 months and five days for Farhad (Vikash Bhai), another middle-aged Afghan at the mercy of the Home Office. Just how long Omar will have to wait is a crushing prospect.

The bleakness of the Hebrides is compounded by their dour accommodation, which is practical but not conducive to any kind of happiness. The walls are pallid, the carpets are hideous, and the blocky television plays low-resolution episodes of Friends, that milky fodder of a sitcom.

Again, Sharrock’s film is not relentless miserablism. The monotony and anguish of these men’s lives is often drily humorous, especially the moments with Helga (Sidse Babett), an offbeat official with corkscrew hair, and Boris (Kenneth Collard), her paunchy sidekick with a 1970s’ wardrobe. Together they teach them about social norms and run childish exercises such as ‘I used to’, which descends into farce as it exposes the refugee’s boredom, “I used to… be happy before I came here”. It shows an understated wit that is a welcome creative choice from Sharrock, who also wrote the screenplay.

The quirks and pathos of Limbo’s characters are framed by Nick Cooke’s novel cinematography. The 4:3 ratio that gives the aesthetic a photographic quality, like an old viewfinder. It serves to highlight the men’s constriction, how they’re afforded a mere snapshot of a country that may reject them in an instant.

Limbo is showing at the BFI London Film Festival. It will be on Mubi soon!

"Greasy movie"

By Jack Hawkins - 15-10-2020

By Jack Hawkins - 15-10-2020

Jack Hawkins is a writer and film critic. He’s interested in films from every genre and every era, but his favourite work comes from the world of neo-noir and the New Hollywood auteurs. ...

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
A small family of four lives in a [Read More...]
Another year has gone by, and DMovies is [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]

Read More

The Long Rider

Sean Cisterna

John McDonald - 22-06-2022

Authentic, intimate and raw documentary about an aspiring journalist’s 25,000km, eight-year incredible epic journey on horseback will move and grip you - from the Dances with Films Film Festival [Read More...]

Traffic and tragedy: 21st Transylvania International Film Festival round-up


Redmond Bacon - 21-06-2022

Our critic's time in Cluj-Napoca offered a serendipitous combination of location and venue, offering a balm in difficult times [Read More...]


Sonia Chokri

Redmond Bacon - 21-06-2022

This Quebecois tale of toxic masculinity feels as unwanted as the acts it tries to make fun of — live from Transylvania International Film Festival. [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *