Coming from writer/director Ben Sharrock and Focus Features is the story of waiting to begin a new life far from home and all while you are in LIMBO.
Omar (Amir El-Masry) is a Syrian refugee musician recently arrived in Scotland. Sent to live in a house with fellow refugees Farhad (Vikash Bhai), Abedi (Kwabena Ansah) and Wasef (Ola Orebiyi) he is left to learn about each of his housemates. All have their own story and are waiting for permission to stay in the country legally.
Attending classes led by Helga (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Boris (Kenneth Collard), they attempt to understand the cultural and acceptable ways of the world. Each day they stand by the mailbox in hopes that one of them will get their papers. In Omar’s case, each week he calls his mother to find out how they are after they escaped to Turkey and to learn the whereabouts of his brother Nabil (Kais Nashef) who stayed in Syria to fight.
Omar learns quickly that there are some not happy about refugees living in Scotland, but it is Farhad that consistently tries to give Omar hints to be happy in this unhappy situation. Learning that his friend had been waiting a very long time for his papers, Omar begins to struggle with leaving his parents behind, especially when he learns of their struggle as well.
When an incident with housemates Abedi and Wasef happens, it throws Omar into a dark place within himself. Feeling trapped, he calls his brother to try and reconcile what is happening to the family. Once again Farhad steps in to give Omar an opportunity to not only show the Scots who he truly is and make amends where he can in order to find peace.
El-Masry as Omar is absolutely amazing, and I could not take my eyes off of his performance. This young man gives us the opportunity to get only a tiny glimpse of what these refugees are running from and hoping to race toward. Omar is not a character of many words but lugging his musical instrument with him wherever he goes is a reminder of the luggage he carries of memories from home. That is what El-Masry gives us the opportunity to experience, and it is filled with sadness, a few giggles and very lovely all rolled into Omar.
Bhai as Farhad is so delightful that I will never forget his performance. He is a man with a history and a long wait for the papers that will free him from the prison he holds himself in. Yet, with that is a heart that emotionally keeps giving to his friend Omar when he needs it the most. He sees something special in Omar and Farhad is not about to let his friend forget who he is or what he is capable of. Bhai made me laugh and he brought a tear, what a performance.
Ansah as Abedi and Orebiyi as Wasef are twin sons from different mothers. They came together from different places and found in each other the need to protect each other. Their stories are filled with fear and, in Wasef’s case there is a rage that shows itself in frustrating ways. Freedom feels farther to reach than with Omar but the distance to freedom hits everyone different and for these boys – it is heartbreaking.
Other cast include Grace Chilton as Margaret, Silvie Furneaux as Cheryl, Jorge Gidi as Cunado, Lewis Gribben as Stevie, Ellie Haddington as Beatrice, Sanjeev Kohli as Vikram, Raymond Mearns as Mike, and Cameron Fulton as Plug.
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LIMBO is an amazing film that is filled frame by frame with equally amazing actors. Their stories are each unique but with that common thread of trying to get away from somewhere to get to a place better. Each learn that crossing a border is the easy part of searching for freedom and that it is the barriers each step of the way that could not have been anticipated.
For the character of Omar, it is not just leaving his home and life of music and family in Syria, but also the guilt in learning that his new home is not going to give him papers right away. He learns from his housemates that the length of time to wait is arduous which adds a new level of guilt to the young man. How does he tell his parents the news?
He also learns from his housemates their stories, quirks, beliefs and when that is not enough, Omar finds himself in an emotional place that just tears at the heart. The story that writer/director Sharrock gives us is so very deep with emotion, silly to break up the reality and enlightening when you walk through the fear door.
In the end – waiting is a group effort!