Writer-director Ben Sharrock has made something very special with Limbo. In this film about a group of displaced refugees awaiting asylum on an anonymous Hebridean island, he manages to deliver humour, heartbreak and pathos in equal measure. Presented in an offbeat tone that deceptively covers the depth of its story, Limbo proves to be a profoundly moving piece of cinema.

With nothing to do, Omar spends his days walking back and forth across the island lugging his heavy Oud with him. The instrument is Omar’s only tie to his native Syria—rarely seen without it, it is virtually a part of him, something which is clearly as much a burden as it is a joy. For Omar and his fellow refugees, with nowhere to go and nowhere to return to, their past and their future are rapidly losing all meaning.

This uncertain state is reflected in every element of the film. It finds humour in the locals who’ll insult Omar then offer him a lift, concerned he’d get caught in the rain. The island’s landscape feels both expansive and claustrophobic. Filmed in a 4:3 ratio, the camera boxes everything in, allowing the landscape to stretch off into the distance while Omar and the rest have to squeeze together to fit in the frame. All of which works to create a stunningly empathetic experience—not only in its depiction of Omar’s impossible situation but also the way that, as seen through Omar’s eyes, Sharrock transforms his homeland into an alien landscape.

Lying somewhere between Local Hero and Elia Suleiman, Limbo is an endearing, intelligent and subtly uplifting piece of filmmaking. Despite moving the audience to some complex places, the film never loses its smile, even as it is being battered by the Scottish wind. Sharrock has marked himself as a very exciting talent.  

RATING: 5/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Amir El-Masry, Vikash Bhai, Ola Orebiyi, Kwabena Ansah

DIRECTOR: Ben Sharrock

WRITER: Ben Sharrock

SYNOPSIS:  For a group of refugees stuck on a Scottish island awaiting asylum, life has turned into a series of episodic encounters where they each find varying degrees of friendship and alienation.