TIFF 2016 Review: Burn Your Maps

burn your maps

TIFF 2016 Review: Burn Your Maps

Burn Your Maps has big buzz surrounding it as it is the next performance by Jacob Tremblay, following his worldwide success in Room. The film tells the story of Wes, a young American boy who is convinced he belongs in Mongolia. Meanwhile, his family is struggling with moving on from a family tragedy, which has thrown his parents’ relationship into turmoil and in turn, therapy. During a heritage day presentation, Wes does his presentation on Mongolia, which upset his parents. While visiting his mother at school, Wes gets to meet one of his mother’s students, Ismail (Suraj Sharma). Later in the film, they have a conversation about how Ismail feels that he was never intended to be in India, so he came to the United States. Ismail decides that he should crowdfund a film about Wes finding his way back to where he belongs. This brings the opportunity for Wes and his mother Alise (Vera Farmiga), along with Ismail, to travel to Mongolia and fulfill his dreams.

The film deals with some really deeply emotional topics. At the center is the theme of spirituality and religion. Wes, like the rest of the family, is struggling with the loss of his grandfather and his baby sister, Lilly. On a journey to find himself and where he actually belongs, he is also discovering the answers about his sister and grandfather by seeking out the shaman. The film deals a lot with the story of being true to yourself, believing in your heart and seeking the answers you need. Wes can’t find the answers he is looking for in the Jewish or Catholic family in which he was raised, so he searches for answers elsewhere, finding that his beliefs align more with the Mongolians and the Shaman than in his own home. The story is told entirely through a child’s perspective and in that way is mostly pure of heart. The story is touching and inspirational, with just the right amount of comedy.

The performances in the film are top notch. They are honest and emotionally driven, with so much passion. Jacob Tremblay, in his all of 9 years, in this film had specific challenges. He learned how to speak Mongolian and ride a horse, along with all the other demands of acting. He gives a great follow up performance to that of Room, solidifying his place in young Hollywood. Vera Farmiga gives a powerful performance as his mother. There is a scene where she and his father, Connor (Marton Csokas) are in therapy, and she yells at him to stop managing everyone. It was just so raw and moving, and it left me speechless. Suraj Sharma gives a delightful performance as Ismail, simple but beautifully done. Virginia Madsen lends herself as the shepherd type character in the film named Victoria, who accompanies the family on their journey, along with their guide, Batbayar (Ramon Rodriguez). All in all, the perfect casting of this film works so well and as a result, we are given a beautifully crafted film. 

The cinematography of this film was inspired. The sweeping shots of the landscape of Mongolia were mesmerizing. It brought out even more of the true beauty of the film. The colors, costumes, and landscape shots were meticulous and beautifully crafted giving, even more, emotion and depth to the film. The music was done by composer Jonathan Goldsmith. The beautiful melodies combined with traditional Mongolian music was a treat. A beautiful score can make or break a film, and the score by Jonathan Goldsmith was the cherry on top.

All in all, Burn Your Maps is an excellent film that touches upon loss, rebirth and being true to yourself. Like life, the scenes in the film are happy, and some are sad but create a beautiful world in which one family heals themselves in a country far away.

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