Movies like "Limbo" could either go one of two ways in terms of quality. You could end up with a film that's painfully manipulative on an emotional level. On the other hand, you could get something genuine, compelling and incredibly moving. Thankfully in this kind and endearing film, "Limbo" moved me deeply. We follow Omar (Amir El-Masry), a young musician separated from his Syrian family and stuck on an island in Scotland awaiting the response to his asylum request. What follows is one of the most surprisingly sweet and charming movies I've seen in quite some time.

Director Ben Sharrock makes a film that's designed to endear itself to its audience. There's a warmth in the dialogue that makes it seem like every scene is a conversation amongst friends. Living in a time where immigration is a profound concept, we don't see many stories giving this subject matter a sweet approach. Each of these characters is instantly likable and has conversations that feel believable. The story follows the same idea of a jaded outsider looking for a better life. It's not something we haven't seen before, but there's one pinnacle difference here.

Sharrock wants to make a film looking at this subject from a human perspective and not just a political one. When Omar arrives at this "refugee camp," he never meets a blatant villain, but people just like him. As he meets this group of characters, each one is going through the same thoughts and feelings. This combination creates for some hilarious awkward comedy early but deeply moving moments later on. Because of the group of actors assembled by Sharrock, these shifts and tones flow so easily throughout. At the tip of the iceberg is Masry's heartbreaking, funny, and moving central performance.

Omar is written as someone who will be quite familiar with audiences as a "fish-out-of-water." Masry makes him someone to root for and, more importantly, someone to feel for. It's a rather tricky balance in a tone that works as someone who's so much more than just a conduit for the audience. Particularly when he meets other residents like Vikash Bhai's Farhad, we see his arch unfold across the screen. It's a powerful and subtle piece of filmmaking that shows the audience and doesn't just tell us. Sequences like when Omar is meeting these other residents are, unfortunately, where the film falters for me.

There are several attempts throughout the story that go for broad and almost slapstick comedy. None of these moments necessarily work and severally concerned me when the film opened with one. It's moments like these play as nothing more than melodrama to move the story forwards. Even at only 103 minutes long, there are points throughout that severely lag. As Omar is roaming around the island, the pacing throughout the story is quite languid. That languid pacing holds a good film back from being a great one.

Even though it clocks in under two hours, several shots go for something rather substantive. Watching these guys hang around their cottage is so enjoyable that anything else feels jarring. There's a bag of ideas that Sharrock wants to pull from, and there are so many that some don't land. It's rather unfortunate because when his ideas and thoughts on immigration work, they work incredibly well. I wish there were moments like this instead of awkward comedy. Moments like these in "Limbo" only ever slightly detract from the more meaningful moments that stick with an audience.

Rating: 6.5/10

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