While some may say this movie is timely, as we’re being inundated with migrants trying to come into our country, this strange British film deals with asylum seekers who have been dumped onto a Scottish island while they’re waiting for their claims to be considered. They don’t have much to do but eat apples and watch ‘90s TV shows.
When the movie starts with a rather bizarre dance scene, the look of this film made me think it was going to be a dark comedy like The Lobster. When we later see scenes of their learning English and job skills, it also reminded me of the wacky etiquette classes we got in Lobster.
Luckily it never got that weird, but some of the absurdist humor made me think first-time Scottish writer/director Ben Sharrock was going for a Coen brothers vibe.
Omar (Amir El-Masry) has fled from Syria, where his brother is fighting in the war. He is living with Farhad (Vikash Bhai), an Afghan who is a huge fan of Queen (the band, not the royal family). He even rocks a Freddie Mercury mustache. There are two brothers from Africa, Wasef (Ola Orebiyi) and Abedi (Kwabena Ansah), who are also housed here. One joke between them that doesn’t quite work, is a debate over the show Friends.
There are moments of deadpan humor that work nicely, and add a touch of humanity. El-Masry does a great job with his facial expressions as he witnesses the bizarre and bleak world surrounding him. Sometimes it’s signs in a local story listing all the racial epithets you can’t use, or a local driving up and saying, “Don’t blow anything up.”
The problem is Sharrock tries to go for drama, which makes some of the strange visuals and attempts at humor fall flat.
Phone calls with his mom don’t pack the punch they should, and neither does his longing to play the oud (a stringed, lute style instrument). He’s got a broken hand, so most of the movie we don’t see him go all Eddie Van Halen with the thing.
The tonal shifts midway through the film just had my wife and I looking at each other and rolling our eyes. And then we were simply bored, as it’s two hours of watching these people mostly just sit around, watching the letter carrier, kicking a soccer ball, or staring out into a boring landscape.
The cinematography from Nick Cooke gives it all a washed-out look that also adds to the dreariness of this picture, which is probably what they’re going for, but just frustrated me. The film just doesn’t say as much as it should. It’s a slow, fish-out-of-water story. That being said, Sharrock does show promise, and I’ll be looking forward to his second feature.
2 stars out of 5.