I can't believe I just read through 75 reviews! Just goes to show, when you watch this film, you don't simply say "oh well" and flip the channel. That said, it seems to me that at least 90% of those reviews are off-target.
On the one hand, the half that are one-star can mostly be ignored. As with all John Sayles' movies, this is a slow-paced but involving story that anchors you into a "place-and-time crossroads": Alaska, as traditional industry jobs are vanishing and being replaced by tourism's less-satisfying service jobs. As always, Sayles weaves a community before your eyes, in this case, a community of people struggling to redefine themselves. Three characters rise to be the leads: they are fascinatingly and heartbreakingly human. Assuming that you like thoughtful movies, you will find yourself immersed, and then, as the title implies, suspended, exactly as the director intends. With all of that, this movie is definitely an involving experience.
Now, if that sounds interesting to you, fine, give it a spin. You'll be intrigued, and will understand why there are 75 screamingly polarized reviews here for such a small film. If it sounds dull, or depressing, it probably will be: skip it. And if you've never seen a John Sayles movie before, this isn't the one to start with: go rent "Lone Star", which satisfies on as many levels as Sayles ever chooses to go. (BTW, you will never find an upbeat, fast-paced, movie-movie Sayles film. He just doesn't do that.)
If you haven't seen the film, stop reading here.
OK, now for all those five-star reviews: nonsense. And as to the condescending POV that, if you don't like this you must have been looking for a Schwarzenegger ending: well, bite me.
This idea that, since "what would happen next" was either of two choices and both were trite, so just leave it to the viewer to choose between the two trite endings... what crap! YES, by stopping there, that is exactly what we're left with: romanticism or nihilism.
That's the point: THE MOVIE SHOULDN'T HAVE STOPPED THERE. They should have survived, obviously: otherwise, why bother filming the movie? Just stick a note in the DVD case saying, "Life sucks", and a handgun to end it all.
They should have returned to the town, plugged back into the story, begun their attempt to trust again together in Joe's house, and... then what? I don't know, cuz I'm not the writer. But surely there would have been a way to leave these characters with open, even ambiguous futures, while still not simply abandoning the story.
A lesser writer would never have gotten us to that beach. But a better writer (and Sayles at his best is one of our finest writers) would never have resorted to such a lazy tactic to leave us in "Limbo". Understand, it was HIS CHOICE to veer the plot midway (and btw, in retrospect? The introduction of the brother and drug dealers and all of that was really contrived). If he ran into this either/or boxed-in choice between two bad endings, he should have thrown the entire "strand them" twist into the garbage can, and rewrote.
IMO, Sayles will look back on this project and realize that he simply ran out of juice. A shame, since this is one of his finest setups for a film, and definitely, three of his finest and most sympathetic characters.