Socialist Worker

Limbo—the absurd tragedy of life as a refugee

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2765

Omar (left) and other refugees are trapped on a fictional Scottish island

Omar (left) and other refugees are trapped on a fictional Scottish island


Limbo, directed by Ben Sharrock, is a sensitive and unsensationalised portrayal of the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers.

A group of refugees from across the world are trapped on a fictional Scottish island waiting to hear if they will be granted status.

There might not be any walls or fences, but harsh conditions and the sea mean that escape is almost impossible.

Limbo focuses on Omar (Amir El-Masry) a Syrian refugee and talented oud player.

Through his eyes we see the barren island, experience the racism from the locals and learn more about the other refugees living there. El-Masry brilliantly plays a character who is being pulled in different directions.

He desperately misses his family and is questioning everything he previously knew about himself.

The film delves into some of the hardships that refugees face, in what is essentially an open air refugee camp.

Omar struggles to access treatment for a broken arm, or to find a warm winter coat.

While some of the characters and situations might be absurd, they don’t stop the film from packing an emotional punch

There is also a constant threat of deportation, with the police raiding homes and throwing refugees into vans a number of times throughout the film.

And while the horrors are plain to see, the film expertly mixes them with moments of comic relief and absurdity.

English classes given by clueless—but well-meaning—locals are an example of just how funny this film can be.

Farhad (Vikash Bhai) is Omar’s closest friend on the island. He’s a quirky character with an obsession with Freddy Mercury and a habit of befriending chickens. But their scenes together are some of the most heartbreaking and poignant.

Farhad’s character is an example of what Limbo does so well. While some of the characters and situations might be absurd, they don’t stop the film from packing an emotional punch.

And in many ways the absurdity makes it feel much closer to reality.

Limbo is a great film that might seem gentle from the outset. But don’t be fooled—you’ll be thinking about it long after it finishes.


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