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The Crack Magazine

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Limbo

Director: Ben Sharrock

Stars: Amir El-Masry, Vikash Bhai, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ola Orebiyi, Kwabena Ansah, Kenneth Collard

A group of asylum seekers kill time on a remote Scottish island in this wistful and humane comedy drama from Scottish writer-director Sharrock.

After fleeing Syria in undisclosed circumstances, traumatised musician Omar (El-Masry) is placed in a ramshackle house in a small village in the Outer Hebrides while the torturously slow asylum process takes its course. He shares the house with three other refugees, the cheerful Afghan Farhad (Bhai), and a pair of quarrelling West African brothers, Wasef (Orebiyi) and Abedi (Ansah).

Omar is initially reticent and uncommunicative, but the pop culture-fixated Farhad not so much wins him over but wears him down with his affable manner. While biding their time, the group have the odd encounter with the locals who are weary but ultimately decent, and attend ‘cultural awareness’ sessions ran by Boris (Collard) ad Helga (a droll Sidse Babett Knusden doing a passable Scottish accent) where they are required to roll-play various everyday social encounters.

It’s a charming combination off Bill Forsyth-style humanist whimsy and deadpan melancholy a la Aki Kaurismäki, with Sharrock eschewing the geo-political to focus on the shared humanity of his characters. It occasionally veers into farce with the Freddie Mercury-obsessed character Farhad who belongs in a broader comedy, but overall the script maintains an understated feel of affecting absurdism. The desolate and rugged coastline is handsomely rendered by cinematographer Nick Cooke, while the appealing El-Masry exhibits the expressive soulfulness of a silent movie star.

Limbo is released 30th July

David Willoughby

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