A Map of the World

Jane Hamilton's 1994 novel forms the basis for A Map of the World, the sometimes moving movie from yet another Broadway director, Scott Elliott. The movie gives Sigourney Weaver (The Ice Storm, Galaxy Quest) the opportunity to flex her acting skills, but does not quite keep anyone watching fully engaged. Weaver is Alice Goodwin, a school nurse who lives on a farm in rural Wisconsin with her husband Howard (David Strathairn, Limbo, A Midsummer's Night Dream) and their two children Emma and Claire. They are good friends with their neighbor, Theresa Collins (Julianne Moore, Magnolia, The End of the Affair), whose children frequently play with Emma and Claire.

In a devastating turn of events, one of Theresa's children, Lizzy, drowns in the Goodwin's pond. Lizzy walked out of the house when Alice was upstairs changing. The death shocks Alice, who begins to withdraw from her friends and family. Once a confident outgoing person, Alice becomes increasingly depressed and lonely. In another shocking blow, Robbie Mackessy, one of the students at Alice's school, accuses her of sexual abuse. Alice feels that Robbie's mother Carol (Chloe Sevigny, Boy's Don't Cry, Julien Donkey-boy) is resentful of the fact that Alice feels that Carol's parenting skills are bad. Because of this, Alice is thrown in jail, throwing her life further into turmoil. In a Crucible-like manner, other children begin accusing Alice of abuse. Alice and her family become outcasts in the small community.

Above all else, A Map of the World is an acting film. All of the principal actors are required to display a wide range of emotion, much more than in most films. Weaver successfully portrays Alice shifting from a normal, loving parent to a woman in despair. As circumstances around her deteriorate, she tries to keep herself together. The only nonrealistic thing about Weaver's portrayal is some of the decisions she makes. Perhaps it is a result of her situation, but logic seems to evade some of her actions. Strathairn also gives a good restrained performance as Howard. Howard was a passive husband and father, but after Alice lands in jail, he finds himself in charge of his children. All of a sudden, he has newfound responsibilities which he is not sure how to handle. Moore also does wonders with her performance, as short as it is. The script by Peter Hedges and Polly Platt tends toward the slow side, which really disrupts the movie. However, the acting more than makes up for it, and should be the main reason for watching the movie.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 5 minutes, Rated R for some sexuality and language.

Back to Movies