Burn Your Maps parents guide

Burn Your Maps Parent Review

This particular journey is bogged down with some frank sexual discussion, yet it will likely resonate with audience members who have also felt lost.

Overall B-

As if the journey through their own marriage problems wasn’t enough, Alise and Connor (Vera Farmiga and Marton Csokas) are forced to take an unexpected detour when their young son (Jacob Tremblay) decides he is really a Mongolian goat herder trapped in the life of an American boy.

Violence B
Sexual Content C+
Profanity C-
Substance Use B

Burn Your Maps is rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some mature sexual material, and brief strong language.

Movie Review

Everyone deals with loss and grief in different ways, and this is definitely true of Connor and Alise (Marton Csokas and Vera Farmiga). While he tries to regain control of his life, she slips away from routine. As he seeks council from tight-laced medical professionals who push prescription drugs, she prefers to spend her time with a ‘barefooted, lesbian” marriage counselor. And when he begs her to step up to her responsibilities (especially as a wife), she pleads with him to find someone else to fulfil his sexual needs.

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Already at a breaking point, their relationship hits another obstacle when their eight-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay) makes an unusual presentation during his school’s heritage day celebration. Instead of focusing on his Jewish and Catholic roots, Wes declares he’s really a Mongolian sheep herder. Apparently inspired by a photograph he found tucked in a library book, the boy is now mimicking their ancestral dress and making sheep out of toilet paper and cardboard tubes. Needless to say his father wants the child dragged firmly back into reality. But his mother sees his fantasy as freedom of expression. Unable to agree on a course of action, each parent heads off in a different direction.

As it happens, Wes has shared his feelings of not belonging with a family acquaintance named Ismail (Suraj Sharma). As an immigrant to America himself, the Indian native understands. Ismail is also an aspiring moviemaker. Although he is usually interested in sexual themes, he sees Wes’s dream of visiting Mongolia as a possible documentary idea. Using the power of the Internet, the pair raises the needed travel money. And without Dad’s permission, mom, son and the director/cameraman catch a flight to the small country tucked between the boarders of Russia and China.

As in most road-trip movies, the characters’ real destination is finding themselves. Along the way, they meet other wandering travelers, in this case a retired nun (Virginia Madsen) and a lonely man estranged from his own wife and son (Ramon Rodriguez). They have life changing experiences (such as birthing a goat and the opportunity for adultery). And they discover answers to questions they didn’t even know they were asking – like, what happens to those who die? And, what is my family worth to me?

This particular journey is bogged down with some frank sexual discussion, frequent profanities and verbal contentions. It includes a strong bias toward Eastern philosophies (reincarnation is mentioned) and decluttered living. The suggested solutions to life’s problems may be a bit simplified as well. Yet the strong performances, and the charming depiction of young Wes (I had a child who made papier-mâché friends too), will likely resonate with audience members who have also felt loss and lost. When it comes to navigating tough experiences, there is no road map. Each person has to find his or her own path.

Directed by Jordan Roberts. Starring Vera Farmiga, Virginia Madsen, Jacob Tremblay. Running time: 102 minutes. Theatrical release March 17, 2017. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Burn Your Maps here.

Burn Your Maps Parents Guide

The loss of a loved one causes the rift in this marriage. What tools and resources are available to help couples overcome these events? Why are some of these supports not working well for Connor and Alise? How might a tragedy pull husbands and wives together instead of tearing them apart?

What would you do if you had a child who was behaving like Wes? Do you think it would be best to indulge his obsession or try to bring him back to reality? What long term consequences might result with either approach?

What do you think about Wes’s reaction when he finds his mom kissing another man? How do our own “stupid” (quoting Alise) actions affect our children?

Wes turns to YouTube to learn about Mongolia and its culture. What are the pros and cons of using sources like that? How can you tell the difference between credible and questionable information? You can learn more about Mongolia at the Lonely Planet website.

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