Amir El-Masry is winning as a refugee musician trapped in the same place.

“Limbo” is a melancholy film about refugees trapped in the same area, which in this case is Scotland. it’s mostly about one person: Omar (Amir El-Masry from “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” and “Star Wars: The Last Skywalker”), a young Syrian refugee from Istanbul, who is currently on an island in Scotland, awaiting for asylum so he can work in London. For now, he and his fellow refugees take some cultural awareness classes, run by Helga (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Boris (Kenneth Collard), and live in a shabby place. Who knows how long the asylum request will be answered? It could take years, months, or days. So, they would rather be deported than be trapped there for a while.

Never watching a trailer for this movie, I wanted to ease myself into the story, and see where it goes. It uses realism, truth, struggles, and emotions to ignite flames. Released by Focus Features, “Limbo” is neither formulaic nor routine. It’s hard to to imagine the Hell it is to wait for a request that may never be granted, and that’s what makes the movie powerful. It’s a character study with excellent performances and sincerity.

But the movie isn’t just about the would-be asylum. Omar is an aspiring musician, who carries around his grandfather’s oud (a Syrian guitar). His hand was injured, which is why he wears a pink cast, and why he hasn’t play the oud since he left home. And he also calls his mother in a phone booth in the middle of nowhere, where she tells him about a war going on at home, as well as her concerns of him not staying mad at his estranged brother Nabil (Kais Nashif) forever.

Out of his fellow refugees-a Freddie Mercury fan named Farhad (Vikash Bhai), a Ghanian named Wasef (Ola Orebiyi) and a Nigerian named Abedi (Kwabena Ansah)-he gains a stronger connection with Farhad. In fact, he’s such a huge fan that he steals a rooster and names him Freddie Jr.

The other two flatmates are believed to be brothers, when really they come from different countries in West Africa, but Abedi explains to Omar why they’re together. They’re not fully developed, but their acting is fine, and their characters do have ambitions, which get slammed by one another.

In “Limbo,” writer/director Ben Sharrock (“Pikadero”) captures a radiant and sentimental mood in the story of a Syrian refugee awaiting his asylum request. That is if he gets it. Cinematographer Nicke Cooke helps him beautifully photograph the Scottish landscapes, whether it’s windy or snowy out. I love the long shots of the fields, Omar standing by the sea, the blizzards, which obstruct our vision of a scene, and the Aurora borealis in a later scene.

The lead role from Amir El-Masry is outstanding, because he plays Omar with a balanced passion and sentimental dispositions. He doesn’t express himself with shouting or screaming, but rather his words and feelings keep him in check. And Bhai is just as excellent as Frahad with his character’s Freddy Mercury inspiration and helpful dialogue. These two actors have chemistry, and “Limbo” takes its delicate time in examining these two characters.

The movie is about life and questions, and uses these particular themes to express them quite well. I wish Omar the best of luck in having his dreams come true and his life back on track.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

In Select Theaters

Categories: Drama

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