Review: MISTER LIMBO, A Charming, Long Walk Towards Redemption
Mister Limbo wakes up in the middle of the desert with no memory of how he got there, not even his name. There is a parachute strapped to his back, torn in places, which suggests he has had an accident. He chooses a direction and starts walking. He comes across Craig, a large black man in a bathrobe and bright, yellow rubber boots. Craig does not know how he ended up in the middle of the desert either, but figures he was on some kind of drug fuelled trip that could have gone worse. Or has it? As they trudge along they start to question what really happened to them. Maybe they just partied too hard at a festival? Or, are they dead?
A.D. Aliwat wote in his 2012 novel, In Limbo, “Nobody really belongs in purgatory. It’s not a destination point, it’s a waiting room.” I once had a doctor that served a largely immigrant patient base in the east end, thus they served a lot, a lot a lot, of patients. So many that I would intentionally show up one hour early for my appointment and still never get in at my scheduled time. Still, the waiting room in Robert Putka’s existential drama comedy Mister Limbo is not one I’m willing to show up early for. If I’m early then something went wrong. It’s not an appointment I’m looking forward to making.
Thus begins Limb and Craig's long walk towards redemption. As they traverse the sandy landscape they will come across a cavalcade of characters. It starts with the bucket list casting of Cameron Dye from the cult film Valley Girl, one of Putka’s favorite films. He plays The Drifter and more than just a burnt out hippie, he is the first sign that things are not what they seem on the desert plains. Other characters are there for laughs and to be catalysts towards moments of personal exploration. It is there that they slowly start piecing together bits of their lives. Through their journey they’ll come to a realization on what they have to make amends for.
The conversations they have range from Craig's random recountings of the sci-fi series The 4400 to them trying to figure out what their names are, 'You look like a Craig' to deeper, person moments. Putka’s film has ideas about the roots of where someone's transgressions may have come from, so the story specifically explores the upbringing of one of his characters. In the debate of nature versus nurture Putka is clearly siding with nurture.
Putka has said that the script for Mister Limbo was written for his leads Hugo de Sousa and Vig Norris after they shared a scene in his other film, We Used To Know Each Other. They are part of the reason why Mister Limbo is such a sneaky film and slowly finds its way into your heart. It is the charm of this brief friendship that is the soul of Mister Limbo. Norris is the bathroom reader wise sage to de Sousa’s slightly panic stricken pragmatist. The chemistry between de Sousa and Norris is so good that you’re invested in their journey of redemption.
And we should say, we love the wipe transitions early on in the film. If you’re going to have two characters wandering a desert landscape there really is no better opportunity to give and wink and a nod to A New Hope. That’s what Putka was doing there, right? However, unlike a certain protocol droid Limbo and Craig are not meant to suffer. This is not their lot in life, but a place where they are given the opportunity to make amends for past transgressions.
Mister Limbo is purposely ambiguous as to where Mister Limbo and Craig go after traversing the desert. Who picks them up and how may suggest different things but still we don’t believe that their destination is the point. Mister Limbo is a film that speaks not only to a community of believers where purgatory is a part of their faith - there is no suggestion that Limbo or Craig are of any sort - but to anyone willing to listen to what it has to say about existential themes such as regret, cynicism, faith, and empathy. Whether you believe in purgatory or not, the afterlife or not, wouldn’t life be better living, right here and now, without any regrets?