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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Offers a reassuring way of looking at death. When we "lose" someone, we have to be vigilant not to become the ones who are lost. Also, it's important to support others' dreams and interests, to communicate about how you're feeling, even when it's painful/difficult. Teamwork, curiosity, perseverance are clear themes.
Positive Role Models
The Mongolian people and their culture are portrayed with a great deal of respect. Despite immense pressure to conform, 8-year-old Wes is committed to being true to himself. His parents aren't perfect, but they care about him and are trying.
Violence & Scariness
Arguing, with raised voices. An angry father demolishes his child's special collection of pictures and articles. An empty sleeping bag is thrown and kicked in frustration.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Frank sexual talk (including term "blow job") between married couple in counseling. Infidelity is discussed (and theoretically OK'd); an extramarital kiss is shown (and seen by a child). Women ogle a man whose bare back is exposed. One character is actively looking for romance, speaks about his religious conflicts when it comes to fornication.
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Strong language includes "bitches," "blow job," "testicles," "t-t," "s--t," and one use of "f--king." A guy grabs his genital region when commenting about acting like a man.
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Products & Purchases
Ugg boots are a recurring laugh line.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An adult is an alcoholic and attends AA. A half-empty bottle of wine is disposed of. Other characters (who are not said to be alcoholics) sip vodka.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Burn Your Maps is a poignant dramedy from the writer of Big Hero 6. It covers a lot of topics -- childhood obsessions, feeling like you don't fit in, marital difficulties, and the ways in which grief manifests -- all of which center around loss and feeling lost. That makes it sound like a terribly sad movie (and some tears will likely fall), but it's mostly not. In fact, it's an uplifting, rewarding, understated experience with several laugh-out-loud moments. A struggling couple talks bluntly about sex during counseling, including encouraging infidelity, and there's an extramarital kiss (seen by a child). Language is occasionally strong ("blow job," "s--t," "f--k"). Diverse representation includes Jewish, Catholic, Hindu, Puerto Rican, and LGBTQ characters, and a retired nun. Travel to Mongolia provides exposure to the Mongolian way of life, with respectful glimpses of villages, sporting events, music, cultural garb, dance, masks, prayer ceremonies, and spiritual beliefs. While the movie is being promoted as a family film, the content will resonate far more with parents than with kids. Vera Farmiga, Marton Csokas, and Jacob Tremblay co-star. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Watching this film is a discovery; it's like stumbling on an unusual rock, putting it in your pocket, and, when you pull it out, realizing it's actually a flawless diamond. Burn Your Maps' concept is definitely quirky: A second-grader thinks he's a Mongolian goat herder. (Whaaaaat?) But that unique plot element is just the first domino in an unexpected spilling of wonder (as in, "I wonder where this film is going."). The story is pleasingly unpredictable, the dialogue is snappy, and the writing is tight. Every line gives you a pound of understanding, which you'll need, because the film drops viewers smack into the middle of this family's turmoil. And that's what's all the more miraculous: Writer-director Jordan Roberts doesn't hit you over the head with exposition; rather, it's a slow roll of information that unwinds. For instance, when her parents start bickering, Wes' teen sister emotionlessly utters a warning call, "You guys are about to start fighting" -- and the entire picture of what life has been like in that household is painted.
Nuances like that are executed by top-shelf acting from the entire cast -- you feel everything. As a mother who's trying to pull herself out of a mountain of grief, Farmiga gets the most opportunity to show her chops, but every player gives a riveting, informative, emotive performance. As a retired, trekking nun, Virginia Madsen pops in for just a couple of scenes and proves that much can be made with little. The cinematography is equally gorgeous, with "golden hour" shots illuminating Mongolia as if it were heaven itself. Will kids or teens find it as enthralling as adults will? Perhaps not. But as the last shot triumphs, grown-up viewers will sit in awe of this little gem.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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