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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
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 »
This is certainly a film of two halves. It feels like an upmarket TV movie at first but the acting and camera-work are superior to that aforementioned fare. There is a sense of a community evoked by Sayles's direction as he follows a diverse array of characters and overlaps their problems with the actions of others, while, at the same time, providing enough social commentary on the evils of capitalism that threaten the natural beauty of Alaska. This socio-political commentary is subtle enough because Sayles avoids stereotypes in his portrayal of the inhabitants. The first half feels fragmented at times but the presentation of the blossoming romance between the two main characters provides a seemingly stable counterpoint to the Altmanesque rendering of the tale.
However, the film is really a tease. It abandons the first half in favor of the unexpected Lord of the Flies scenario involving the three main characters for the second half. Moreover, it changes mood full circle, using fear and anxiety as the main concerns of the three stranded characters, whose lives hang in the balance, in a state of limbo as it were. I wasn't sure how the first half related to the second, and I still feel uneasy about the total break Sayles employed between both parts. As a result, it feels like two films joined together. I also feel Sayles abandoned any sense of a multi-threaded narrative drive he successfully built into the first part in favor of the unexpected second part. The second part may symbolically allude to the film's title but it's also an abrupt digression of the preceding genre.
Why bother with showing the first hour if it wasn't followed up? Why bother showing many characters in the first half, then abandoning their concerns in the later, as if it didn't matter? This is essentially a TV movie for the art-house crowd but one that challenges and frustrates in equal measure.
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