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14th October 2020

Waiting In The Wilderness

I can’t image what it must be like to be in a country that is not your own. Only speaking the language to a certain level, having no say in where you live, what you can and can’t do, having to live with people you don’t know and the locals being not altogether happy that you are there.

This is how Omar, Amir El-Masry (“The Rise Of Skywalker”, “Daniel”), finds his life now. He is on a remote Scottish island awaiting the fate of his asylum request. Omar is from Syria, by way of Turkey, where his mother and father remain whilst his brother is still in Syria, fighting. Omar’s only possessions are the clothes on his back and an Oud, a lute-type instrument

He lives on this desolate, wind swept island with Farhad, Vikash Bhai (“The Stranger (TV)”, “Knightfall (TV)”), who is from Afghanistan, Wasef, Ola Orebiyi (“Upstart Crow (TV)”, “The Line (Short)”), Abedi, Kwabena Ansah (“Enterprice (TV)”, “#Haters (Short)”), who are brothers but not brothers and a whole bunch of other men.

Teaching these men the ways of this new world they find themselves in are Boris, Kenneth Collard (“Cuckoo (TV)”, “Detectorists (TV)”), and Helga, Sidse Babett Knudsen (“Westworld (TV)”, “Borgen (TV)”).

These men all have a variety of desires; Wasef wants to play for Chelsea FC, whilst Farhad wants to be the next Freddie Mercury, modelling himself on the icon to boot. Abedi meanwhile knows that the chances of any of those things are as remote as the island they find themselves on, he says they’ll all be cleaners, like him.

Boris and Helga meanwhile are the most deadpan, unintentionally hilarious teachers you have ever seen. Helga informs the group she “used to have a dog, but it got rabies and I had to kill it”. Boris meanwhile, when asked to provide examples using “I used to…” says things like; “I used to ride an elephant to work”, or, “I used to have a beautiful house until it was bombed by coalition forces”.

The foursome waits each day for the post, the results of their asylum applications, but they never arrive. They sit around, watching Friends on TV and walk the long way to a phone box to either phone home or phone to check-up on their applications.

Farhad takes Omar up to see some chickens and talks about how, when a new chicken is introduced into the coop, the others will fight it, peck it, even kill it. That all changes however should a wolf arrive.

One day Farhad steals a chicken and names it Freddie Junior. Despite the others urging him to send it back he keeps it, in the house with them. When the police arrive to take Wasef and Abedi away, Wasef legging-it instead, it leaves just Farhad, Freddie Junior and Omar in the house.

Writer and director Ben Sharrock (“Patata Tortilla (Short)”, “Pikadero”) weaves a wonderful story, starting hilariously black in its comedy, it gets gradually more serious as the film moves on.

The directing is beautiful, the bleakness of the Western Isles of Scotland is shown in all its glory, the hovel of the house the men are in shown in just the right light, whilst everyone performs with aplomb, a cameo from Sanjeev Kholi (“Still Game (TV)”, “Avenue 5 (TV)”) as a supermarket owner only adds to the dark humour.

If there’s one downfall it’s that it does start to feel like the movie is going ever so slowly in the middle third, however, that’s a small things when everything else is this good.

Omar is a promising young musician. Separated from his Syrian family, he is stuck on a remote Scottish island awaiting the fate of his asylum request.

16th October 2020

Ben Sharrock

Ben Sharrock

Running Time:
1h 43min

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