Reviewed by: Richard Schmitz
Starring: Michael Laskin, Leo Burmester, Herminio Ramos, Dawn McInturff, Vanessa Martinez, David Strathairn, Tom Biss, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Jimmy MacDonell, Kathryn Grody, Rita Taggart, Mérit Carlson-van Dort, Monica Brandner, Maria Gladziszewski, Kris Kristofferson | Director: John Sayles
Director John Sayles (Matewan) offers viewers a unique focus on the lives of a handful of residents of a small Southeast Alaskan community in “Limbo”. The main characters are a fisherman/handyman (David Strathairn), an itinerant folk singer (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), and her daughter—played brilliantly by Vanessa Martinez.
“Limbo” is two films, really. In the first, we see a community (Port Henry, which is Juneau, the home town of this reviewer) struggling with economic change, from the old ways (fishing/processing/timber/mining) to the new (tourism, eco-tourism). The two main characters begin a relationship, which is continued and put to the test in part two of the film. In the second half of “Limbo”, the three are stranded on a remote island and face dangers as they survive in harsh Alaskan conditions. It is in this second part that some real issues are explored—one being the pain children feel when growing up in a single-parent family. Never has that issue been so well portrayed as it is in “Limbo”.
This is not a Christian film—the two main characters live together without being married—but the film deeply explores human nature. “Limbo” is an excellent film. It also comes the closest of any film to portraying Alaskans realistically. There are no cute polar bears or Klondike barroom brawls in this film. Be warned, however. You won’t like the ending—but only because it runs counter to the type of endings you expect from a Hollywood film. The ending Sayles gives us in this film is in many ways a perfect one—just give it a few hours to sink in and you’ll agree.