Say what you will about the very dry refugee comedy "Limbo," but at least it lives up to its name.
The refugee crisis is probably not something most people would joke about. But if you can't find the humor in life, all you'll be left with is the bleak reality. The problem with "Limbo" is that the comedy is so very, very, very dry that some people may only see the bleak reality. That might also be the point.
"Limbo" is one of those independent, artsy European films that requires a real desire to watch. It recently played at Capitol Cinema in Rome.
"Limbo" stars a young man named Omar who fled his home in Syria to escape the civil war and is trying to find asylum in England. While he waits for his paperwork to be accepted or rejected, Omar is left to idle on a very remote island off the coast of Scotland with a handful of other refugees from around the world. He's got nothing but time on his hands to worry about his family and his dreams of becoming a musician.
First and foremost, "Limbo" is bleak. Very bleak. It's the story of a handful of men in the middle of nowhere waiting to see if they will be allowed to move on to a new home or if they will be deported back to the terrible conditions they fled. They aren't allowed to work, have barely enough money to feed themselves and rely on DVD donations for even the barest of entertainments.
And that's to say nothing of the film's setting. Their island is nothing but wide open shots of barren fields. It's one of those places where there is more livestock than people, and there isn't very much livestock. The cinematography perfectly captures this limbo-esque landscape of sheer, unrelenting emptiness.
It is a constant, perfect metaphor for Omar's predicament.
But "Limbo" is not meant to be entirely bleak. The filmmakers find moments of humor and humanity, peppering the film with interesting characters and some silly bits. It's all very dry comedy, of course. The film never loses sight of the struggle. But I like dry humor. The film can also be devastating. There's at least one big surprise that defines heart-breaking.
Being an arthouse indy film from Europe, "Limbo" is as far from the typical American blockbuster as a movie can get. You have to actually want to watch a movie like "Limbo" to get anything out of "Limbo". It's a journey, and a hard one at times. But the movie is rewarding in the end.
Or at least it is as rewarding as it allows itself to be, which, ultimately, is still pretty bleak.