FlixChatter Review: LIMBO (2021)

LIMBO-movie

There have been some titles of certain films lately that leave me scratching my head, but this is one of those occasions where this one word title perfectly describes the story. The people in this film are literally in limbo, they’re in a forgotten place and state, uncertain of what to become of their fate as this new arrivals in a fictional remote Scottish island await results of their asylum claims. 

The main protagonist is Omar (Amir El-Masry), a well-educated Syrian musician who carries his grandfather’s Oud everywhere he goes. He ends up sharing a room in a rackety house with Farhad (Vikash Bhai) from Afghanistan, who somehow still remains chirpy after having been on the island for about three years. The contrasting personality often creates an amusing exchange between them, especially as Farhad suddenly decides to adopt a chicken from a nearby, unattended farm. I suppose when one has absolutely nothing to do and barely anyone to talk to, having a pet seems like a good idea. There are also two West African refugees Abedi (Kwabena Ansah) and Wasef (Ola Orebiyi) along Omar’s journey who I initially thought as brothers. Each have their own dream and life goal, as we all do, but let’s just say how one of the characters end up is quite heartbreaking.

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The vast Scottish Western Isles landscape is beautiful but feels desolate, which makes it even more evocative. As they say, sometimes the location becomes the character. The Scottish landscape truly helps you get into the characters’ head as they wait, and wait, and wait… with no hint or assurance whatsoever if their asylum papers would ever be granted. The culture class taught by husband/wife team Helga and Boris (Sidse Babett Knudsen and Kenneth Collard, respectively) offers absurd humor that’s both sad and amusing.

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Ben Sharrock, in his sophomore feature effort, is definitely a filmmaker to watch. Limbo is a study of restraint as everything moves at a measured pace. The film has minimal dialog but it’s highly atmospheric. The slow-ness is deliberate, the camera takes its time following a character walking down a field or lingering for minutes as a character talks on the phone inside a phone booth. Sharrock acutely depicts a sense of loneliness and isolation that’s palpable and moving. In a sea of action films that just want to get your adrenaline going with endless high-octane action sequences, it’s actually refreshing to watch something that really allow you to immerse yourself in the story and the journey the characters are going through. I think some people might find the whole affair a bit too tedious, but I find it quietly absorbing given how it reminds me of my own life as an immigrant. Granted my experience before I finally became a US citizen were vastly different from Omar’s or Farhad’s, but I remember being in limbo while I was waiting for my H1B visa approval.

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I love that Sharrock didn’t spoon feed us too much details of each character’s situation, but gave us enough hints to empathize with them. For example, the way he revealed Farhad’s situation in his home country, in just a simple sentence I understand why he didn’t mind the wait as he simply cannot go back. Small gestures of kindness involving a fellow refugee working at a small grocery shop is done really well that makes a seemingly obscure scene deeply memorable and meaningful. 

I feel like by the end of the film I’ve spent time with real people instead of watching actors playing a part. Of course that is part of the beauty of not having big-name stars, but later on I recognized El-Masry from his supporting role in BBC’s miniseries The Night Manager. I really like his performance here, there’s a quiet grace and compelling vulnerability about his performance. He’s got a nice rapport with Bhai who’s also able to balance the humorous and earnest moments nicely.

There are plenty of films about the refugee experience, but LIMBO definitely stands out from the pack for its unusual wry approach. The film isn’t afraid to be melancholic without resorting to over-sentimentalism. It even veers into surrealism involving Omar’s brother. The musical number towards the end wonderfully celebrates Omar’s musical past and I find it so moving. Though the ending isn’t neatly tied in a big red bow with some questions remain unanswered, it does end in a hopeful note, which I think is as perfect an ending as one can get.

4/5 stars

Have you seen LIMBO? I’d love to hear what you think!

APRIL Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

April Recap

How in the world that May is here already? Honestly April feels like a blur to me. Weather-wise it’s also super weird. We’ve got Spring, Summer and Winter all in the same month, but hey at least there was no major blizzard! In fact, it was nice enough to walk around the lake a few times and I look forward to more of those in May.

Oh, I did get my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine yesterday, so hoping that I can actually travel again this Summer after I got my full dose later this month! Anyway, here are what I watched in April.

NEW TO ME MOVIES

Godzilla vs Kong (2021)

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This dueling monsters flick was the first movie I watched in April. You know what, I didn’t hate it. I mean, I knew going into it that the movie wasn’t going to be about the humans, so can’t complain that the non Godzilla/Kong characters would be under-developed 😀

3/5;

The Truffle Hunters (2020)

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It’s a fascinating subject about a handful of 70-80 year-old Italian men hunting for the rare and expensive white Alba truffle. I had no idea there’s even these types of truffles but they’re huge! I found the film itself a bit too slow and not as exciting as I had thought, but I’m still glad I saw it.

3/5

Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art (2021)

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Another fascinating documentary about a subject I’m not familiar with, and what a perfect title! This crime doc focuses on the largest art fraud in American history set in NYC. It’s interesting that the filmmaker was able to get Ann Freeman (AND her attorney), the Knoedler gallery director at the center of the fraud scandal, as one of the talking peoples.

 3/5

Kodachrome (2017)

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Read my full review

Limbo (2021)

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I LOVE this indie film, so I highly recommend this one. Stay tuned for my full review coming soon!

Orlando (1992)

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I wanted to see more female-directed films and this Sally Potter period drama starring Tilda Swinton has been on my to-watch list for ages! Loosely based on Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando: A Biography, it’s a strange, surreal film about a man who live through several centuries, even becoming a woman! Billy Zane seems miscast here though, in fact, it’s perhaps one of the most bizarre thing about this already-peculiar film.

4/5

Betty White – Documentary

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I came across this doc on Netflix and of course I had to watch it. I’ve been curious about this legendary performer with a career spanning eight decades!! What a fascinating life, it just makes me love Betty White even more after watching this.

4/5

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

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I finally got around to watching this just before Oscars so I can see Viola Davis’ and Chadwick Boseman’s Oscar-nominated performances. Well, both are truly Oscar-worthy! Oh man, if only Viola won this year, she was incredible! I’m not overly fond of the film itself overall, but that last 10 minutes of Chadwick’s performance was absolutely heartbreaking to watch.

3.5/5 Reels

My Octopus Teacher

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My hubby and I actually watched this the next day to cleanse the palette after the heavy subject matter of Ma Rainey. What a lovely story featuring one of the most amazing underwater cinematography ever… it made me wish I knew how to snorkel!

4.5/5 stars

Another Round

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I literally saw this the night before the Oscar and it’s perhaps my favorite film from Thomas Vinterberg. His longtime collaborator Mads Mikkelsen is outstanding in the film, which proves how versatile this Danish actor is, able to juggle huge blockbuster franchises and small indie films. I do hope he continue to star in smaller films like this one in the future!

4/5

Wild Mountain Thyme (2021)

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Ok, I know I’ve been warned via Rotten Tomatoes and Twitter just how weird this rom-com is, but man, nothing prepared me for how bizarre it was! Written/directed by John Patrick Shanley who won an Oscar for writing Moonstruck (and nominated for Doubt), I was scratching my head by the end. The horrible Irish accents by most of the cast (esp. Christopher Walken) wasn’t even the worst thing about it. Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan barely had any chemistry, though I quite like Dornan as a bumbling farmer and I think it suits his persona more than the billionaire Christian Grey (well based on the trailers anyway, as there is no way I’d watch those stinkers, ha!)

2.5/5

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse (2021)

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I actually been looking forward to this as I like a few action movies based on Tom Clancy’s books, most recently the Jack Ryan series with John Krasinski. Well unfortunately this one proved to be utterly disappointing despite having the great Michael B. Jordan and other talented actors (Jamie Bell, Guy Pearce). I’m not sure I’ll give a full review yet but this humorless affair’s got a cheesy B-movie vibe all around. Such a total waste of a talented cast!

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TV SERIES

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier 

The Nevers

Death Comes To Pemberley – Miniseries


REWATCHES

I re-watched quite a few animated movies this past month. Not sure why but I guess it just happens. One of our friends spent the night in early April and he had never seen a Daniel Craig Bond movie, so of course we had to put on Casino Royale. It still holds us really well though the ball-busting scene is still hilarious and cringe-inducing, ahah.

Vicar of Dibley: Christmas Special

Casino Royale

Roman Holiday 

Tangled

Paddington 2

How To Train Your Dragon


APRIL MOVIE OF THE MONTH

MyOctopusTeacher-MVP

MY OCTOPUS TEACHER

If there is one documentary I wouldn’t mind watching again, it would be this one. It’s not only gorgeous and soothing to watch but also inspiring to see the unlikely bond between a human with an elusive underwater creature like an octopus. Craig Foster is such a wonderful storyteller and perhaps one of the best documentary subject I’ve ever seen. Most talking heads are so boring but he shows such passion for his friend/teacher, that is the young octopus, that one can’t help but also get swept off my feet by the creature. I wish he named the octopus! Bravo to Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed for their Best Documentary Oscar win, it’s absolutely well-deserved!!


Well, what did you watch this past month and what’s YOUR favorite film you saw in APRIL?