Plot: What’s it about?
Alice Goodwin (Sigourney Weaver) lives on a rural farm with her husband, Howard (David Strathairn) and their two young daughters. Even though she is a city girl at heart, she pushes ahead because the other members of her family seem to like it and she doesn’t dislike it too much. She works as a school nurse and aside from one rude child with a neglectful mother, she has a decent work atmosphere. Alice is very open about her life and her feelings, even too much so at times and though she doesn’t know this now, a few simple words can make a lot of difference sometimes. Alice is best friends with Theresa (Julianne Moore), who also has two daughters and the two watch the kids for each other often. One such time, Alice was getting ready to take the girls swimming, but one of them (one of Theresa’s kids) couldn’t wait. Alice looked around for the lost girl, only to find her face down in a small pond. As she deals with that grief and tries to gain forgiveness from herself and Theresa, she soon finds herself involved in a legal battle, when a parent accuses her of sexual abuse. But Alice handles it all well enough once she is in jail and can let some anger and frustration out. But in the end, how will things turn out for Alice, her friends, and her family?
This isn’t a high profile film by any means, but I do feel it is one film fans should look into. You’ll find solid writing and directing in this movie, as well as some fantastic performances. I will say that this movie warrants a somewhat more mature audience, so this isn’t one for children or even younger teens. Not mature in terms of normal meaning (such as violence or sexual content) so much, but this film tackles some grown up issues and will likely lose the younger folks early on. The pace is brisk, but could be considered a little slow at times, but this never hinders the movie’s movement in the least. The writing seems to spend just enough time in the right places, so just when it starts to drag a little, we find ourselves in a new direction or situation. I wouldn’t say this film has a lot of twists and turns, but some well developed character changes do emerge and I think that spices this one up a lot. The subject matter involves child abuse and death and as such, if those topics offend or upset you, you might want to pick an alternate film. But if you’re looking for a well written and superbly acted drama, A Map Of The World is a perfect choice.
The writing and directing in this film are terrific, but the actors shine and bring this one to life in fine form. The lead is played by Sigourney Weaver and though she is known for his solid work, this is one of her finest performances to date. This role blends control and chaos in the same stroke and as such, I can’t imagine how difficult it was to just step into this part. But Weaver does just that and excels in every respect. She powers this film from start to finish to be sure, but never goes too far in making her character walk the fine line. This ensures she never goes over the top, which would damage the complex inner workings she accomplished with this role. Other films that feature Weaver in powerful turns include Alien, Galaxy Quest, Death And The Maiden, Gorillas In The Mist, and Ghostbusters. I was also impressed with the work here of Julianne Moore (Boogie Nights, The Big Lebowski) and David Strathairn (Limbo, Home For The Holidays), both of whom turn in above averages performances. The rest of the cast includes Sara Rue (Can’t Hardly Wait), Arliss Howard (Full Metal Jacket, Natural Born Killers), Nicole Ari Parker (Remember The Titans), Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Virtuosity), and Chloδ Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry, The Last Days Of Disco).
Video: How does it look?
A Map Of The World is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This transfer shows more debris and marks than I expected, but aside from that drawback, this is a nice treatment. The colors reflect a natural scope, but I still saw some bright hues here and there, while flesh tones were warm and normal also. Also up to task is the contrast, which is well balanced and shows no evidence of detail loss at all. I didn’t see any compression errors either, though the amount of debris does pull down the score a little. This is a newer (1999) movie and as such, I expect a clean and sharp source print to be used.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is a dialogue driven movie and as such, the included 2.0 surround track is more than adequate. I did notice that the music sounds very good in this mix, which is good since it compliments the film well. The bulk of the sound effects are subtle or background noises, so don’t expect much range or power from this one. I do like how nothing is forced through, which maintains a natural, fluid overall sound for this track. The main element is dialogue, which comes across in crisp fashion in this mix. I never had any trouble with clarity or volume, this is a wonderful and appropriate audio treatment.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes some talent files, the film’s theatrical trailer, and a behind the scenes featurette. This piece runs about thirteen minutes and contains various interviews with cast and crew members. Not as deep as I would have liked, but still a very welcome inclusion on this disc.