It’s unusual to find a film that successfully combines a serious, almost hopeless situation with humor. However, Scottish writer/director Ben Sharrock, does exactly that.
Amir El-Masry plays Omar, a Syrian refugee seeking asylum in Britain. He wanted to be accepted in England, but is instead transported to a Scottish Island, where he’s grouped with men from various countries, all with one purpose – a chance to have a better life.
The opening scene is quite humorous. It takes place in a Cultural Integration class. There’s about 20 men seated in an auditorium watching a female teacher (Sidse Babett Knudsen) dance by herself. Soon, Boris (Kenneth Collard), a fellow teacher joins her. They’re demonstrating how a man should properly treat a female in social situations. When Boris gets a bit too aggressive, she slaps him across the face – end of instruction. The confused expressions of the men’s faces, are priceless.
Omar shares a house that has a couple of beds, a small t.v. and fridge with Farhad (Vikash Bhai) a good-hearted man that loves chickens and karaoke. They talk about their families and the series Friends which they watch with a couple of guys from the next house, but mostly they pass the time talking about becoming accepted in this new country.
Everywhere Omar goes, his oud, musical instrument (similar to a guitar) goes with him. His hand’s in a cast and he’s waiting to have it removed so he can play again. He shows video tapes of himself playing in Syria in front of an appreciative audience, which makes Farhad excitedly tell him that as soon as Omar can play again, he’ll become his manager and set up a concert.
The film follows Omar on his daily routine. Walking in frigid weather to a phone booth to call his parents, walking to the grocery store to find a spice that his mother spoke about, or walking to class. Everything he does is to bide his time until he receives notification that he’s been accepted. Its a lonely, monotonous life. Even his calls home are made with mixed emotion. His father holds up his older brother as a hero because he stayed behind to fight in Syria’s civil war. Also his parents think that Omar’s making money in his new country and are expecting to receive some. For some strange reason, the refugees cannot accept jobs while they’re awaiting their fate.
Limbo is filled with so much emotion. It’s funny, touching, and sad, in fact you almost feel guilty for laughing out loud at times. The actors are terrific and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.