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Limbo (1999)
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by Vibeseeker

"A warm and emotive film."
4 stars

Transcending all genres, John Sayles' films are personal projects rooted in intricate character examinations. Limbo, despite being his most expensive film to date (US$8 million), hasn't lost this sincerity of approach. Sayles' last outing Men with Guns neglected the need for English (being shot entirely in Spanish), Limbo neglects the need for an ending.

It all begins unassumingly as a salmon fishing documentary, shot against the splendid backdrop of beautiful and barren Alaska. Against the isolated rawness of the setting, a warm and emotive film flows, with top-notch performances breeding empathy and sympathy. The film ultimately resolves around a relationship triangle.

Joe Gastineau, played by Sayles regular henchman Strathairn, is in self-imposed limbo. The once bitten twice shy ethos that he's gripped by, is responsible for both his retired fisherman status and his caution to relationships. But his outlook begins to change as he meets Songtress Donna De Angelo (Mastrantonio). She on the other hand is brash, unlucky in love and unable to control her destiny while carrying the added responsibility of her melancholy daughter Noelle (Martinez).

In a similar vein to Lone Star, there is an emphasis on sowing a tapestry of characters' emotions against the canvas of a community that carries an air of fatalism - from the torrid tales told at the local bar to the petty conflicts between the locals.

The film really moves in two acts. As the three leads seem to be sanctifying their relationships in a sailing trip, the appearance of Joe's brother Bobby unbalances the newly formed equilibrium and proves to be the catalyst for the movie's second act, a Deliverance-esque fight for survival.

The understated and ponderous narrative is initially frustrating but it does work in building up compassion for the characters. The second act serves up primal emotion and tension that laced with psychological terror leads to more dynamic viewing.
Sayles, one of the true gurus of independent film has always been guilty of unresounding narratives, but in terms of subplot dimension he rarely misses the mark.

Which brings us back to the apparently neglected end - the big question mark proposed by it will confound audiences. For some it will offer an anticlimatical sedative that paralyses the enjoyment of a gripping climax. For others it will provide a fitting epitome to the limbo premise, a complete ending if you will.

Sentences without a full stop can only end with exclamation marks or question marks. Limbo's end is guilty of coming across as a profound exclamation, somewhat overshadowing the questions posed by the intricacies of the actual story. ---David Michael

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2103&reviewer=251
originally posted: 09/09/99 11:36:43
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User Comments

1/16/03 Phil M. Aficionado The ending tests whether you are an optimist or pessimist. Choppy but well done flick 4 stars
12/06/01 A.E. Manning Great work as always. Those who didn't like the ending obviously don't get it. 5 stars
7/19/01 Reini Urban First I thought Sayles wants to show off Hollywood, now I think he is right. For both camps 5 stars
3/15/00 Jessica Superb cast, great story. Not recommended for people who hate abrupt movie endings. 4 stars
2/06/00 sue great movie, very different, will definately not appeal to everyone 4 stars
1/09/00 John Seligman The whole movie is a cliche that cops out by not having the guts to show us an ending 1 stars
1/02/00 SJKelley Sayles = overrated. Limbo deserves its obscurity. First-draft dialogue and plot. 1 stars
10/19/99 corey singer the best independant director working today. someone who assumes the audience is not dumb. 5 stars
9/19/99 Robert Lederman Ending (or lack there of) spoiled whole thing 3 stars
9/11/99 Pierce Lanson How many film endings elicit a groan from the audience? GREAT movie!! 5 stars
9/03/99 Dogma Dave Sayles never misses the mark. 4 stars
7/24/99 Heather Another great movie from Sayles, but will somebody tell me what happened to them? 5 stars
7/04/99 boomer For everyone who hated the ending--Duh, it's called Limbo for a reason! 4 stars
6/24/99 Mr Ed I haven't stopped thinking about this movie since I saw it 4 days ago. The unconventional f 5 stars
6/19/99 XenoWolf John Sayles should lick my hairy nuts and stop wasting film THIS MOVIE FUCKING SUCKS 1 stars
6/14/99 David A really good film about 3 interesting people facing incredible circumstances. Sayles rocks 5 stars
6/07/99 bart allan "What an ending!" or "What, an ending?" 4 stars
6/03/99 Mr IMDB A very thoughtful and thought-provoking film, the type of which is not often seen. 5 stars
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  04-Jun-1999 (R)



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