Movie Review: Burn Your Maps

Still from the film Burn Your Maps, which was filmed in Alberta.

Still from the film Burn Your Maps, which was filmed in Alberta.

Burn Your Maps is about a mother who absconds to Mongolia with her son so she can indulge his psychotic delusions about being a goat herder.

Of course, that’s not what the official synopsis says. That’s just what I got out of it.

The movie is more literally about a young boy (played by Jacob Tremblay) who tells his parents that he is a Mongolian goat-herder, and that he was born in the wrong place.

His mother (played by Vera Farmiga), takes the boy to Mongolia against his father’s wishes, where she enables him by believing in his dangerous fantasies.

Maybe I was accurate in my original synopsis.

Many of the film’s characters are types, albeit fully realized types. You got the frazzled mother, the imaginative and quirky young son, the snooty daughter, the kooky ethnic sidekick and even the authoritarian dad who wants his kid to play sports.

As well, the whole concept of a soul-searching journey is a rather common subject for independent films, and Burn Your Maps offers little to distinguish itself from the crowd.

Still, there is a lot of competence in the execution. The first and final thirds of the film are the strongest, mainly due to the actors and the admittedly funny comedy of Suraj Sharma.

The biggest standout in the film is Jacob Tremblay, who continues to prove himself after his outstanding performance in Room. He may very well be the next Haley Joel Osment, though, hopefully, it will end better for him.

The cinematography is also a standout. Jordan Roberts, both the director and writer for the film, used actual film to shoot the establishing shots in Mongolia, as he didn’t want to risk damaging a frailer digital camera.

Most of the movie is quite pretty to look at, and even breathtaking at points.

The film, however, largely falls apart when the mother takes her son to Mongolia. Not only is she committing a felony, but the film also stops being about the family drama, and focuses solely on how exotic and weird Mongolia is.

Burn Your Maps comes across as rather disingenuous. I’d even say it tries to justify the practice of people adopting other cultures, like those dingleberries who claim they’re part Cherokee. The only reason it’s not that glaring of a flaw is because Jacob Tremblay manages to sell it so well.

He really does know how to make cultural appropriation look adorable.

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