Limbo . sure isnt heaven and its too cold to be hell
Jun 24, 2004
Pros: The acting was worth the watch
Cons: Alaska is still the playground of death
The Bottom Line: Facing the trials and struggles of every day life
Catching this movie in bits and pieces, I found it intriguing enough to seek out and watch to completion. Expecting the usual Sayles' tale, I was both surprised and pleased with this release. Centered in Alaska, a harsh enough environment in itself, we learn that the truly harsh environment is the landscape of the human mind.
Our cast includes Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio a single mom, a defeated singer, facing the future in a no-where end of the Earth place, a no-where job, a no-where life. Another dead beat guy leaving her wanting a future, a daughter that doesn't understand her, and a life she doesn't understand herself.
David Strathairn, a former hot-shot football player that blew out his knee and blew up a career, a former fishing boat skipper until he had the misfortune to lose two clients and left that profession as well. Left with a future as a sometimes handyman trying to make ends meet, a lonely existence before him.
Vanessa Martinez, a young and impressionable girl, daughter of Mary Elizabeth, starting to look at boys and life with pre-puberty eyes, looking at her mother with eyes filled with both fear of becoming a duplicate of her mothers' lonely ways and disgust at the choices her mother has made with her life. She is a dreamer of dreams, wanting to be an adult but still yearning for the pleasures of youth. An insightful miss, she has designs on Strathairn, in her childish way.
There are more miscreants in the movie, that will be introduced as needed.
Slipping into a limbo Mastrantonio gets dumped, yet again, by another worthless soul while attending a wedding. Strathairn gives her a ride home and the basis of their romance begins here. In the meantime, Vanessa has observed Strathairn around town and is lusting after him as well, but let's face it, she is but a babe. Still and all, she lusts, quietly, telling her mother there is someone she 'admires'. Imagine her surprise when mom brings the dude home!
Strathairn has a not too honorable half brother, Casey Siemaszko, that convinces Strathairn to set his boat to the water once more to help Siemaszko with a business deal. Of course it is a shady deal, something that he doesn't divulge until it is too late for anyone to do anything about it. Strathairn invites his new woman, Mastrantonio, and her daughter along for the trip, saying it will be a good way for everyone to get to know each other better. Oh yeah!
First there are murdering thugs, after Siemaszko and his drugs, then a storm that shipwrecks Strathairn, Mastrantonio and Martinez on a seldom traveled island. Discovering a deserted house, they settle in, hoping for rescue. Martinez finds a journal, left by the daughter of the former inhabitants, and begins telling the story of the former residents. Every night she reads a new entry from the journal, which strangely begins to parallel their own lives.
With little hope they will be rescued, they begin taking their frustrations out on each other, fighting among themselves. Strathairn feels it is his fault they are caught in this situation because of him, Mastrantonio feels she is losing both her daughter and her new lover, Martinez feels closed off and isolated. Eventually Martinez develops a fever and her mother is desperate to have her returned to civilization.
The truth about the journal is discovered at this point. Will rescue bring friend or foe? Will they survive their ordeal in the bleak wilderness of Alaska or will they become part of the legend that is the wilderness? Will they forever be sailing the seas of limbo or will they eventually ground themselves and their lives?
Sitting on the sidelines Quite a surprise in the singing voice of Mastrantonio. Too often we get into a rut, only seeing these people in the defined roles they play. It is always a treat to find them branch out into different venues, like singing or dancing, talents you often don't get to see them ply. She certainly devoted a good part of herself to this role, making it very believable and terrifying.
Strathairn is ploddingly serene in this release. Even though he dreams and wants for more, he never foolishly raises the hopes or expectations of those around him. I found him a great counterpart to both Mastrantonio and Martinez.
Martinez is every adult trapped in a little girls' body. She wants more, she hates what she has. She can't see a future and she longs for the past. And yet her dreams raise her above the norm, refusing to swamp her in the commonplace. A great performance by this little miss. Does anyone know, is she related to A. Martinez? The resemblance was there.
Siemaszko was a sleeze. You wanted to slap the snot right out of him. Couldn't have found a better person to learn to hate for this part. Also including Kris Kristofferson, not sure if he was a bad guy turned good or a good guy turned bad, but that is Kristofferson in every role he plays.
The scenery is beautiful for the most part, but still not enough to lure me to the Alaskan wilderness where things are only a step away from death. I thoroughly enjoyed this little saunter into Limbo and the peek into the hardened and frightened landscape that is the human mind. When faced with adversity, we all resort to the primal scream.
Written and directed by John Sayles, cinematographer Haskell Wexler. A stellar movie!
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age