A Supernatural Sitcom and a Meaningful Exploration of Mental Health: That's Ryan Corr-Led Comedy 'In Limbo'
Also starring Bob Morley, this six-part Australian dramedy is thoughtful, weighty, funny and exceptionally well-cast.
June 13, 2023
Not to be confused with recent Australian film Limbo, six-part Aussie dramedy In Limbo takes its title to heart, and also uses its eponymous idea as fuel for a supernatural buddy comedy. Before the end credits run on the show's first episode, Nate (Bob Morley, Love Me) is palling around with his lifelong best mate Charlie (Ryan Corr, House of the Dragon) from the afterlife — and the dearly departed Brisbanite is stuck. He isn't staying by choice. Instead, he hasn't moved on. He can't, and he doesn't know why he's lingering. Audiences can instantly guess in general terms, because ghost fare both comic and spooky overflows with spirits tied to the mortal coil via unresolved business, but In Limbo is never about scares and definitely isn't only about laughs.
While Nate grapples with his newly loitering status, Charlie is reeling over losing his best friend unexpectedly at the age of just 38. Initially, he thinks that spying his pal again is a drunken hallucination in his grief-stricken state, especially given that he found the body. No one else can see Nate, not his widow Freya (Emma Harvie, Colin From Accounts); the eight-year-old daughter, Annabel (Kamillia Rihani, The Twelve), he doted on; or his very Catholic mother Maria (Lena Cruz, Wellmania) and affable father Frank (Russell Dykstra, Irreverent). As Charlie does his best to help his pal's family cope, he's the sole one spotting Nate as an apparition — and, more than that, he falls back into their usual rapport.
It's Christmas, too, in this Sunshine State-shot and -set series, with facing the festivities after such a shock far from easy. As it heartily deploys Brisbane Powerhouse and New Farm Park as settings, that's a lot for one show to delve into — and delve it attentively does. On paper, In Limbo's mix seems delicate. It's an otherworldly sitcom with an odd couple at its centre, their bond transcending life and death, and it isn't afraid of having a sense of humour. That said, it's also a heartwrenching tragedy. In addition, it delivers a sincere musing on loss, shame and guilt, and a weighty exploration of mental health. And, In Limbo confronts how difficult it is to ask for assistance, and to notice when even your closest loved ones need it, plus the fact that men requiring a hand can still be regarded a weakness.
Tackling mourning, mental struggles and suicide isn't simple, even in a show about someone haunting their best mate, and including when such topics have been increasingly popping up on Australian screens lately (see also: Totally Completely Fine). Created by Lucas Taylor, marking his second series for 2023 after Black Snow, In Limbo is clearly crafted with empathy and understanding for its subject matter, its characters and everyone among its audience that can relate. Penned by him as well, with Doctor Doctor's Tamara Asmar co-scripting and Trent O'Donnell (Ride the Eagle) and David Stubbs (Daffodils) directing, the show crucially doesn't attempt to offer any firm answers. Rather, whether facing a tough topic with humour, heart, or clear-eyed and head on, the series acts as a conversation starter — an important function.
In Limbo entertains, engages and moves, potently so, but it's even more committed to being meaningful. There's zero doubt that the show knows how immensely hard it is to navigate loss — in fact, it leans in. In its opening episode, before Nate and Charlie switch from the comfortable banter that's flavoured their friendship since childhood to picking it up from the beyond, it sees the pain that becomes Charlie and Freya's second skins. It watches their expressions as everything they thought they knew crumbles. It sits with their confusion, sadness, desperation and yearning. It knows that nothing will ever be the same again, and that this will always be a part of them.
In a rarity for on-screen depictions of death, In Limbo also acknowledges the mundane but essential tasks that the experience places on those left behind. It understands that finances need getting in order, funerals require planning and children need guiding. It wades through the conventions and expectations around how the bereaved grieve, and for how long; how they share the traumatic news and where; and how they start working through their new future. As the admin of mourning piles up, In Limbo also knows that everything changes but so much heartbreakingly stays the same. Here, Annabel still has soccer games to play. The festive season remains in full swing. Charlie hasn't forgotten about the looming divorce that he's been avoiding, either, and matters of addiction and domestic violence in his broader circle don't just fade away.
It boasts considerate writing, compassionate aims and the right balance of comedy at its core; however, a series like In Limbo was always going to need the best cast that it could get. With Corr and Morley as its leads, it couldn't have managed better. The ever-excellent Corr plays a supremely complicated role with charm and sensitivity, which is no surprise given his Holding the Man, 1% and Wakefield-filled resume, and decades in the business. In a likeable and layered performance, he fleshes out Charlie's troubles, plunges into his doubts and challenges his grin-and-bear-it status quo. In Limbo dives deep into Charlie's whirlwind of emotions without Nate physically by his side, with Nate now his ghostly offsider and with his own problems, and doesn't ever dream of brushing past the character's flaws.
Corr also makes such a great double act with Morley that filmmakers should be clamouring to pair them up again ASAP. The focus on 21st-century masculinity and friendship demands that their camaraderie feel real, which it achieves reliably and effortlessly. The series tasks Morley with providing an outwardly spirited portrayal with equal range as Corr, a feat that he similarly perfects. But In Limbo doesn't only value its main duo. Harvie's work is just as complex, Rihani makes an impact as Annabel, and Cruz and Dykstra are never reduced to grating in-laws. Cherishing everything you can while you can and peering beyond what's right in front of you beat at the heart of this thoughtful show, after all — and that's meaningful, too.
Check out the trailer for In Limbo below:
In Limbo streams via ABC iView.
Concrete Playground Trips
Book unique getaways and adventures dreamed up by our editors