Review by James Lindorf
In Burn Your Maps Hollywood it-kid, Jacob Tremblay, is Wes, an 8-year-old from a nondescript American city whose heart lies, not at home with his family, but on the plains of Mongolia. After discovering an old picture stuck in the pages of a book, Wes knows he is meant to be a nomadic herder. He believes he may even be the reincarnation of the boy in the photograph and goes so far as to adopt his name. His supportive mother Alise, played by The Conjuring’s Vera Farmiga, and disapproving Father, Marton Csokas (The Equalizer), have their own existential crisis to deal with. The pair are still in the grips of grief after the death of their infant daughter nearly a year ago. When Wes shares his story with Ismail, a likeminded Indian immigrant and budding documentarian, he sets into motion a series of events that will end in the journey of a lifetime. First screened at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, Jordan Roberts’ drama wandered around a bit before finding a home with Vertical Entertainment, who will be releasing the film in theaters and on demand June 21st.
Director Jordan Roberts is behind the camera for his third feature-length film. As with Frankie Go Boom, and Around the Bend, he has penned the screenplay and put together an impressive cast. The cast carries the film, much like their characters carry goats in the latter half of the film. Tremblay gives a strong performance as the eccentric and sometimes overly precocious Wes. Farmiga and Csokas take turns as the films emotional center as they fight with each other, as well as their own personal demons. Suraj Sharma’s Ismail serves as the film’s comedic element while pursuing his personal American dream of women and fame. Virginia Madsen, Jason Scott Lee and Ramon Rodríguez round out the talented cast as a trio of characters that the family meets along the way.
With excellent acting and beautiful cinematography from veteran John Bailey (Groundhog Day), it is in the script that Burn your Maps begins to falter. It takes a serious family drama and blends it with a boilerplate, child wish-fulfillment tale. By combining the two, neither genre is as good as it could be, leaving the film’s tone as nomadic as Wes.