LFF 2020 ‘Limbo’ Review: Migrants at the End of the World

Every year the film festival features films about the urgent crisis of worldwide immigration including the horrible circumstances that push people out of their home countries, the dangerous journeys they experience to more prosperous nations and the horrific and dehumanising treatment they receive once they arrive. This black comedy about a group of migrants housed on a remote Scottish Island manages to hit harder than many of it’s more straight faced contemporaries.

The film follows Omar (Amir El-Masry) as he tries to tolerate the ridiculous classes intended to help him acclimatise to the west, the angry and foolish fellow migrants he lives with and the horrible phone calls from his desperate family back home. There are also the locals who range from openly prejudiced to naively well meaning, but all are ignorant. The few representatives of the system he meets are indifferent to his suffering. He struggles to maintain hope and his dignity.

Limbo is a subtle comedy about the absurd. Framing and dialogue is used to highlight how ridiculous the treatment of these men is. The film finds the humour in their bleak situation. The film utilises the extraordinary but bleak Scottish landscape to demonstrate the absence of life. The men reminisce about the beauty if their homelands and share dreams of their future based on television fantasies. The wind whips and tears at the landscape and the men

The film portrays our intelligent and sensitive hero made speechless by the senseless nature of his situation. There’s a quiet but powerful despair to his performance. He suffers indignity in absolute silence. His eyes betray the suffering within.

This is a poignant film about the pains of leaving home. All of these men have potential and dreams but all have been placed into a spiritual limbo between their world and ours. It’s a film about squandered lives and an invisible bureaucracy that is more content to waste time than actually save these lives. More introspective is the fight to keep hold of ones soul when removed from the country that once nourished it. There are no flashbacks to save us from this freezing desert but the words and warmth of our heroes reminiscence offer powerful respite.

It’s not perfect, sometimes becoming too ponderous or dragging it’s feet. But it’s a beautifully human story of men at the end of the world, wondering if the rest of the world still cares about them and if they still have any part in it.

Four Stars

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