Film Review: Limbo

STUDIO: Focus Features | DIRECTOR: Ben Sharrock | CAST: Amir El-Misray, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Kenneth Collard, Vikash Bhai
RELEASE DATE: April 30, 2021
SPECS: R | 103 min. | Drama comedy

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  1/2

If indie icon Jim Jarmusch had ever directed a Wes Anderson film, it would look something like Limbo, a low-key but sweetly rewarding effort by sophomore director Ben Sharrock (Pikadero).

Featuring much deadpan quirkiness, Limbo tells of young Syrian Omar (Amir El-Misray, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan), a musician unable to play his oud music because of a hand injury, who is stranded on an island near Scotland while awaiting asylum. With his parents in Turkey and his brother fighting in the military, Omar is stuck in limbo, uncertain of his future, lonely and distanced from his loved ones.  He soon joins others—an Afghani and two West African brothers–in a home until his hearing can hopefully spring him from exile.

Limbo is anecdotal with some funny bits mixing with the serious stuff  and room for observation. On the humorous side, Omar ‘s cohabitating refugees appear to be obsessive about pop culture in general, and Freddie Mercury and the TV show Friends, in particular.  There’re also some oddball cultural lessons imparted onto Omar and others by a strict immigrant instructor (Sidse Babett Knudsen, Westworld) and an awkward gentleman (Kenneth Collard, The Art of Love) who is scolded if he steps “over the line.” The film’s tone of enlightened bemusement eventually gives way to more solemn complications in its latter half, not all of which rings true.

Overall, however, Limbo delves sensitively into the issues of immigration in a delicate and knowing way, turning the plight of immigrants into a most human, relatable story.

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.