Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1999. Green/Renzi. Screenplay by John Sayles. Cinematography by Haskell Wexler. Produced by Maggie Renzi. Music by Mason Daring. Production Design by Gemma Jackson. Costume Design by Shay Cunliffe. Film Editing by John Sayles. Cannes Film Festival 1999. Independent Spirit Awards 1999.
Beautifully photographed Alaska adventure by John Sayles, who continues his habit of delivering brilliant character studies in compelling circumstances. Perpetually single club singer Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio has broken up with yet another boyfriend and is moving out; her daughter (Vanessa Martinez) stopped communicating with her long ago, taking her anger out on herself physically. Along comes David Strathairn as a shy stranger who takes them on a boat trip, when they have to abandon ship because of lethal danger, they’re stranded in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness to survive by their wits and emotional strength. Sayles shows Alaska as a political and geographically beautiful backdrop for half the film, then turns the tables and makes America’s last frontier the protagonist that these people have to endure if they expect to survive. The ending may be infuriating for some.