Now Streaming: LIMBO, The Waiting Is Not the Hardest Part

Rakel Wärmländer, Sofia Helin and Louise Peterhoff star in a wrenching dramatic series from Sweden, now streaming on Viaplay.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
Now Streaming: LIMBO, The Waiting Is Not the Hardest Part

Caution: check your mental health before binging.

Now streaming on Viaplay.

Inspired by Janis Joplin, who was quoted as saying: "I love being onstage and everything else is just waiting," musician Tom Petty wrote "The Waiting," which includes the refrain: "The waiting is the hardest part."

That song, released in 1981, expressed an aching, relatable yearning that has stretched across the years. In Limbo, inspired by true events and now debuting in the U.S. and Canada via the Viaplay streaming service, the waiting is only the beginning.

Close friends Ebba, Gloria, and My have gathered with their children and other family members one pleasant evening. Bidding each other a good night, their prospects for a restful sleep are interrupted by news of an automobile accident involving their teenage children.

Rushing to their side, their individual domestic situations are sketched out in the first two episodes. Ebba (Rakel Wärmländer) is a high-powered business person who is accustomed to exercising control over her life, both professional and personal. Her husband Fredrick (Oscar Töringe) appears to be calm and soft-spoken, and appears to care for most of their domestic affairs. They have two children: teenage son Jakob (Anton Forsdik) and pre-adolescent Mathilda (Heidi Blanck).

Gloria (Louise Peterhoff), Ebba's best friend, is divorced and struggling to provide for herself and her teenage son Sebbe (Odin Romanus), financially and otherwise. Her ex-husband is now married, and informs Gloria that his new wife is pregnant, so they'll be needing to take back their apartment, where Gloria and Sebbe have been living since the divorce.

Their third friend, My (Sofia Helin), a therapist, is in a relationship with Helena (Alexandra Zetterberg), a physician who is similar to Ebba in that she's accustomed to exercising control over her life. Helena's teenage son, Lukas (Linton Calmroth), lives with them -- he was the driver of the car that crashed. Helena's ex-husband is also a physician, and he re-enters the picture and demands to exert control over everyone else in a bullying, demeaning manner. And all this while My is waiting to hear the outcome of a pregnancy test.

And that's just a bare outline of the first two episodes! The very definition of a 'tough sit,' Limbo nonetheless studiously avoids melodrama; there is only pain. The characters are defined by how they react to the pain, resulting in an abundance of scathing, lacerating exchanges between people who have never expressed their deepest fears and anxieties to one before.

This is beyond 'ripping off a bandage.' It's more like ripping off a bandage and then picking out the flesh, millimeter by millimeter, opening and expanding the original wound. Each episode, running 38-46 minutes, inflicts or witnesses extensive emotional and/or psychic damage being wrought upon the characters.

Directed in its entirety by Sofia Jupither, Emma Broström wrote four of the episodes and co-wrote the other two with Rakel Wärmländer. Watching people in pain for that length of time is an absorbing yet wrenching experience, due to the writing, which aims at the characters' greatest vulnerabilities; the directing, which stages, frames, and follows the narrative so that emotions and reactions are allowed to breath and develop naturally; amd the performances, which capture the characters at their lowest points with empathy and authenticity.

Revealing rather than rewarding, Limbo pierces the comfort of a good night's sleep with a nightmare that may never end.

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Louise PeterhoffRakel WärmländerSofia HelinSwedenViaplay

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