Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

5/5 (1)

From this year’s Academy Awards with the shorts “The Present” and “White Eye,” to the feature film “Minari,” immigration is a very popular subject in current cinema.

“Limbo” by Ben Sharrock is an offbeat and understated portrait of Syrian immigrant Omar (Amir El-Masry) and his friendship with the Afghan Farhad (Vikash Bhai) on a fictional remote Scottish island (in reality, the Uists, 30 miles off the coast of Scotland).

Existence is lonely on the sparsely populated island. Omar’s social interaction comes mostly from English language and career lessons taught by a quirky lady, Helga (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Boris (Kenneth Collard), who teach how to dance and get jobs.

Omar resides in a minimal room. He trades deadpan quips with Abedi (Kwabena Ansah) and Wasef (Ola Oribiyi). Omar is quiet and withdrawn. Only his eyes betray alertness, ever so slightly in the manner of Henry from David Lynch’s “Eraserhead.” His eyes stare off into the distance, as he is persistently made fun of by a carload of young people.

As Omar carries an Oud from his musician grandfather, Farhad insists on being his music manager, although it seems Omar has little chance. Omar can’t seem to play, not to mention the daunting condition of a pink cast on his strumming hand.

Omar watches old footage of his younger self playing onstage.

Day in and day out, Omar goes on errands never knowing when the next instance of hostility will occur, either from teens or older people in motorized chairs. No matter. Omar trudges on.

The film has two aspects. One side is an existential depiction of the life of an immigrant waiting for things to happen. The other side is quirky and almost madcap. Farad confesses love for a pet chicken, while Helga and Boris carry on like dysfunctional lovers.

Through it all, Omar waits patiently and observes, his dark eyes like the aperture of a camera taking everything in and calling mom without judgment, a melancholic traveler waiting to play his homespun melody.

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