Melancholic, atmospheric and heartfelt, Ben Sharrock’s feature exploring immigrants awaiting asylum eschews conventional approaches to stories of the modern refugee crisis to create something profound and surprising.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
Stranded on a wintery, blustery island off the coast of Scotland, a group of immigrants and asylum-seekers from all over the world wait interminably for their chance to start a new life on the mainland. In this immense yet suffocating liminal space, Omar (Amir El-Masry), a gifted oud player separated from his family in Syria, spends his days wandering the landscape, bonding with the other asylum-seekers and trying to stave off hopelessness.
Director Ben Sharrock’s sophomore feature contains notes of Cannes darlings Ruben Östlund and Yorgos Lanthimos, employing a similarly ornate, composed visual approach. And yet, where those directors often deploy their style to distance the viewer from the subjects, Sharrock’s intentions are far more humanistic. What results is a stirring exploration of the modern refugee crisis that shirks familiar storytelling tropes and never fully succumbs to bleakness (despite the barren, if beautiful, surroundings).
Flashes of sweetness and good humour pepper the film’s melancholy tone, ultimately evoking a quiet profundity. — Tom Augustine
“Sharrock’s tale feels almost like a small miracle with its defiant stance against exploitative hopelessness. It’s not that Limbo ignores despair altogether or dismisses the spiritual hurt that its displaced human beings... experience day in and day out. It just engages with its characters’ pain differently than you might expect. Limbo creates an earned sense of hazy sadness, specific to its desolate locale and the persons that inhabit it.” — Tomris Laffly, RogerEbert.com