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In an economically devastated Alaskan town, a fisherman with a troublesome past dates a woman whose young daughter does not approve of him. When he witnesses the murder of his shady brother, he, the woman and the kid run to the wilderness.



2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Hermínio Ramos ...
Dawn McInturff ...
Bobby Gastineau
Kathryn Grody ...
Tom Biss ...
Harmon King
Jimmy MacDonell ...
Randy Mason
Mérit Carlson-van Dort ...
Monica Brandner ...


Limbo tells the story of people trying to reinvent themselves in the Southeastern islands of Alaska. The story revolves around Joe Gastineau, a fisherman traumatised by an accident at sea years before, singer Donna de Angelo and her disaffected daughter Noelle who come into Joe's life. When Joe's fast-talking half-brother Bobby returns to town and asks Joe for a favor, the lives of the characters are changed forever. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Acclaimed director John Sayles takes you to the heart of America's last frontier See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

7 July 1999 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Ennen kuolemaa  »

Box Office


$8,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$139,634 (USA) (4 June 1999)


$1,997,807 (USA) (13 August 1999)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In a scene near the beginning Donna (Mastrantonio) and Joe (Straithairn) are riding in his truck. Donna's cigarette smoke is blowing away behind her and in close-up her hair is moving, but throughout the scene you can see the windows are obviously both closed. See more »


[stranded on an island, Joe is making smoke signals to attract planes]
Donna De Angelo: So then we hope that someone sees this and wonders what the story is?
Noelle De Angelo: Somebody who doesn't want to kill us.
[Donna scoffs at her]
Joe Gastineau: It's a possibility...
Donna De Angelo: Geez, you two are a perfect match. Doom and gloom.
Noelle De Angelo: There's no use pretending.
Donna De Angelo: Yes, there is! We are on a camping trip. We're on a survival school camping trip! I mean, this is what they call quality time, isn't it? This is what they mean. No distractions, no media stuff, we ...
See more »


Loving You Is Hell Enough For Me
Written by John Sayles and Mason Daring
Performed by Rust Farm (Chris Moore and John McGann)
with Marshall Wood and Tim Jackson
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

'Limbo' is Aptly Titled
29 May 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I'd suggest that viewers watch 'Limbo' on DVD with the voice-over narrative by John Sayles, the director. A lot of insights provided there, including a lot of little details which give you insight into movie-making--the reason for multiple takes, visual effects, the importance of 'continuity', and even a lot about sound, which was a big issue in the making of this film.

I was amazed to learn that Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is such a terrific singer--she sang all the songs and, in fact, her voice was recorded live while shooting the scenes, not dubbed in later in post-production. Sayles describes this in his narrative.

Sayles had less to say in the narrative about the ending, but based on the comments he DID make it was all quite intentional--not the result of studio politics or a screenwriter (Sayles himself) who couldn't decide on a final ending. In fact, I would suggest that it is Sayles' standing in the business that permitted this film to be produced & released without answering the question of what becomes of those characters, though it also occurs to me that it could be the reason why this film didn't get much of a marketing push. Clearly the audience is left hanging in--dare I say it--a state of limbo. Sayles has no intention, based on his comments, of a sequel, though he invites anyone else to dream one up if they wish.

But aside from all this, it was a terrific film, with interesting characters, shot in unusual and often stunning locations ("Insomnia" comes to mind when thinking of recent films shot in Alaska with its scenic backdrops).

The cast was generally quite good--Mastrantonio and Strathairn were terrific, and Kris Kristofferson was a great choice as the likable but edgy local, Smilin' Jack Johannson. Vanessa Martinez was, for me, less convincing as the daughter until the boat trip and beyond, but that is when her character becomes truly important to the story and her work was quite good when it mattered most; up to then it was all teenage angst.

Overall, I enjoyed 'Limbo' a great deal, and the limbo in which the audience is left with such abruptness was, for me, almost a slap in the face--a welcome one--in striking contrast to the 'Star Wars' series in which George Lucas took 6 movies and nearly 30 years to tell us how Darth Vader came to be.

Note: I am NOT slamming Lucas or 'Star Wars' by that comment, only making a point.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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