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Limbo - thoughts?

I went to see Limbo around 2 weeks ago and it's been playing on my mind since.

Seeing how it's being reviewed (93% on Rotten Tomatoes?!), the subject matter and anecdotes from friends, I hate to say it, but I'm confused as to why...


Going in, I wasn't expecting an overjoyous, comedic watch; I knew right off the bat that the film was handling some heavy topics surrounding refugee status and identity, and that would likely mean witnessing heartbreak, displacement all unfold in front of my eyes. It wasn't going to be an easy, light-hearted watch for sure.

While I wasn't wrong there, I just felt like the entire piece lacked any humanity from Sharrock. I won't get into the politics of directors taking on topics of something they have 0 lived experience of, but the dissonance between the audiences perspective and Omar, and the other characters felt more as if this was a love letter to cinematography and the Scottish coast, instead of a focal piece on an often untold narrative of the time spent in "Limbo" before being afforded refugee status.

It was confusing at points to tell whether this lack of emotion was supposeed to show how often British society forgets and disregards refugees, however, I don't feel this film was compelling the viewer to change their mind. From the monotony of the lack of dialogue from Omar carrying his Oud everywhere, refusing to converse, to the out of touch, deadpan handling of Wasef's death, to whatever even was that "It was all a dream" ending scene with Omar's brother; to me the film just felt like a passer-by's understanding, never fully finding any form of identification or understanding or the character's emotions, experience or identity.

I'd be interested to know what you thought of the film, whether you enjoyed it or what I was missing as a viewer that made it so great. Thoughts?

  • A Scottish filmmaker friend of mine mentioned it, and it's on my list. I'll try watch it and get back to you.

    1 month ago
  • Well, I have now watched it.

    I seem (mostly) to have had a very different experience to you!
    You say you were expecting a heavy, heartbreaking insight into refugees, yet right off the bat the opening is like if Wes Anderson were European. Over-long, yes, but quirky, and it defines the mood of the film.

    Believe me, I went in wanting to dislike it, because I love hating things that are popular... like Dunkirk and Paddington 2 ... But overall I rather enjoyed it.

    That said... I'm not sure what it was trying to be.
    It's without a doubt a 'dramedy': a gentle comedy with a couple of sad moments. Not some gritty drama about migrants, or a 'Scottish Guantanamo' - and that is very welcome. You might say it missed the mark and - by being a comedy of sorts - doesn’t make us take asylum seekers any more seriously; or you could say the whimsical, gently comic nature of it humanises the characters and makes us think ‘Hey, they’re just like us, they appreciate good banter like all of us’.

    I liked the characters. Sure, Omar was a bit sullen, but Farhad was amusing and the two African 'brothers' were enjoyable.
    And yet... I feel like there was a lack of story. Lack of a goal. I know it’s limbo but... a Hero normally has a clearly-defined goal, even if that goal was something simple like to play his Oud to an audience.

    On which note: I just felt like I was waiting for him to play the Oud. WHY DIDN'T HE JUST PLAY IT?!? If I were a musician in a foreign land, with nothing to do, the one thing I would do almost every day is play my instrument! It’s an expression of freedom and joy and nationality and a million other things. He could’ve played it in the house or in the wilderness or anywhere. This just pissed me off.
    And ultimately the whole film leads up to him playing his Oud, and... that's it.

    It was pretty lame.

    But. My biggest gripe is the 4:3 video format. Why oh why oh why oh why.... When I started watching, I assumed it was set in the 80/90s. Why else would you use that archaic format? Then I realised it's clearly not based in the past: so why use it?! It looks to me like it's not even been framed for 4:3, and it was an after-thought. The massive irony being that this is clearly an advert for Visit Scotland, yet they chopped off the edges of the screen which would've showed off the beautiful landscapes better. In 'landscape' mode. *Sigh*

    So overall: I didn’t dislike it… but I won’t be telling everyone I know to watch it.
    I’m very much… in limbo.

    1 month ago