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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie explores the experience of refugees and gives a good depiction of their lives beyond what is shown on the news. Though characters' situations are often shown as bleak and hopeless, togetherness and optimism often shine through. Ignorant and racist comments are made, but are also explained as to why they are offensive, leading to more acceptance and understanding. The importance of family and friendship.
Positive Role Models
The main characters are a diverse group of single male refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and Nigeria who form a support network for each other. Omar is a talented musician who has gone to the U.K. looking for a better life. He hopes to be granted asylum and then get a job so that he can send money back to his family. He soon becomes despondent about his situation. In contrast, fellow refugee Farhad is upbeat and optimistic about his future in the U.K., and encourages Omar to see the positives. The locals are a mix of welcoming but, at times, hostile toward the refugees. They use racist language and make lazy stereotypical comments. The refugees -- though all male -- are portrayed as fully-formed characters with their emotions, backgrounds, and situations explored and recognized.
Violence & Scariness
Character is discovered frozen to death in a field. A shallow grave is dug for them, but the placing of the body in the grave is not shown. Someone bangs a telephone handset after having an argument. They also aggressively push someone. Reference to war, people dying as martyrs, and a pet dog being killed. A character recounts being on a boat that caught fire, before being rescued. Passing reference to someone dying of "sadness." Character talks about a fight in which someone's finger was bitten off. During a "cultural awareness" class, character slaps someone in the face after they put their hands on their bottom.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
During a "cultural awareness" class, intended to teach a group how to behave when in a nightclub, the class instructors demonstrate what constitutes as inappropriate touching -- such as placing hands on someone's behind. But it is all done in a comedic and bizarre fashion. A character is seen in the bath and shower, but no nudity below the shoulders is depicted. Jokey reference to masturbation.
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Language includes "f--k off," "f--k's sake," "shite," "balls," "wanking," "stupid," and "dumb." Racist language includes "Blacks," "Paki," "goat f--ker," "camel jockey," and "dusty nuts." Further language is seen on a sheet of paper pinned to a shop wall with a list of terms that will not be tolerated. Locals make racist comments to refugees, asking if they are terrorists, rapists, bombers, and members of Al-Qaeda.
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Products & Purchases
Reference to Instagram, and TV shows such as Friends and The Wire.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A number of characters smoke. One in particular is rarely seen without a cigarette on the go.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Limbo is an excellent British drama with comedic moments, but also racist language and some upset. Omar (Amir El-Masry) is one of a group of refugees -- all single men -- who are housed on a remote Scottish island while they wait to find out if they have been granted asylum to the U.K.. The hopelessness of the men's situation is tapered by laugh-out-loud moments, often courtesy of Omar's friend and fellow refugee, Farhad (Vikash Bhai), who remains optimistic and encouraging. The refugees encounter mixed reactions from the locals. Inquisitive stares and racist language are common throughout, although the movie portrays this more as ignorance rather than anything more sinister. Other locals are shown to be more welcoming, but even they use racist language, such as the British slang term "Paki." There is also occasional swearing including variants of "f--k," "shite," and "balls." There are a number of references to war and people being killed. In one shocking and unexpected scene, a character is found frozen to death in a field. Characters frequently smoke, most notably Farhad who is rarely seen without a cigarette. For the most part, the movie is in English, but when Omar speaks Arabic, English subtitles are displayed. The movie is a refreshing take on the lives of refugees so rarely told or portrayed in the media or on-screen. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Written and directed by Ben Sharrock in what is only his second directorial feature, this superb British movie, set on a remote Scottish island, is a film full of contrasts. Limbo is both about isolation and community. It's heartbreaking yet hilarious. Bleak but hopeful. In many ways, these counter-positions are encapsulated by the movie's two halves. The first half of the movie is littered with comedic moments as the absurdity of the refugees' situation plays out. But by the second half, and following an unexpected tragedy, the mood has very much turned as the monotony and boredom felt by Omar and his fellow refugees takes over, as they wait for a faceless institution to tell them if they can stay in the country or not.
Rather than jar, this change in emotional tack feels natural and in sync with Omar's own feelings. As each day passes, and after yet another phone call back to his family -- who are now living in Turkey -- Omar begins to second guess his decision to leave his country, and what little enthusiasm he had gradually drains away. It's not all bleakness and misery. Omar's fellow refugee and Freddie Mercury enthusiast, Farhad (Vikash Bhai), provides the comic relief along with odd couple Helga (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Boris (Kenneth Collard) who ensure the men are all "prepared" for their integration into Western society. The opening scene in which Helga and Boris demonstrate to the men how to behave with women in a nightclub is laugh-out-loud funny. A story that is frequently portrayed in the news, Limbo adds a humane and untold element to what life as a refugee is really like.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.