Off the Map - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Off the Map Reviews

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Super Reviewer
May 2, 2013
Sort of a Zen meditation about the accident that leads us to decide to discover what life is all about, that needs to discover in fact. Sometimes the writing and presentation is awkward but it comes off like well meaning, teenager-in-love awkwardness and, because of that, bearable. Beautiful New Mexico desert scenery dominates. Very approachable.
Super Reviewer
June 22, 2006
Ok, so the concept behind this movie is maybe better than the movie itself, and the precociousness of Valentina De Angelis's character might be just a bit too much, but other than that, I don't really have any complaints about this movie. It has a good story, interesting characters, good performances and really nice cinematography. It's a smaller, quieter, indie film, and I'm really happy about that. I can't see this film being better otherwise. This movie makes me want to live in New Mexico. I already want to anyway, but this makes me want to even more.
Super Reviewer
½ June 23, 2006
[font=Century Gothic]In "Off the Map", Bo(Valentina de Angelis) is a precocious 12-year old being home schooled by her hippie parents, Arlene(Joan Allen) and Charley(Sam Elliott), who are living the life of Henry David Thoreau on a self-sustaining homestead in New Mexico.(The household income is only $5,000 per year.) In her spare time, Bo goes hunting, extorts samples from companies and is working on a credit card application. The main crisis in their household is Charley's deep depression.(My guess is that the film takes place in November 1980, shortly after the election of Ronald Reagan, an event that darkened a lot of lives.) The family income is low enough not to require them to pay income taxes, but they have not been filing the requisite forms, thus bringing them to the attention of the IRS. An auditor, William Gibbs(Jim True-Frost), arrives just as Arlene is weeding her garden in the nude...[/font]
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[font=Century Gothic]"Off the Map" strives to be an eccentric coming-of-age story but it is listless and too earnest for its own good. The only jolt of energy comes from the arrival of an IRS auditor, never a good sign. The movie cannot escape its theatrical roots, even with beautiful location shooting. I do admire the family and how they live but the film wrongly avoids any discussion of politics. The reason many people keep their earnings down to avoid paying income taxes is so they do not support the American military. [/font]
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[font=Century Gothic]J.K. Simmons and Sam Elliott give performances so low-key that they are practically somnabulant.(I do not know if there is a way to portray depression accurately onscreen, but this is certainly not it.) Amazingly, Joan Allen hardly registers at all. At least, Valentina de Angelis, can be relied on to rescue the movie from the doldrums.[/font]
Super Reviewer
July 27, 2009
"It was inescapable, my Father's depression, like some fumigator's mist filling our lungs. It came to be the focal point of our lives that summer..."

A story of a family living "off the map" trying to cope with an extremely depressed husband and father, played by Sam Elliott. All their lives become strangely affected when they are visited by an auditor (Jim True-Frost) from the IRS.

It seemed like an honest portrayal of some of the sides of depression and how family and friends are affected and react to it. Campbell Scott, the director, captured the despair, loneliness and deep love that these characters felt for one another. There was some disconnect though in the film that separated the audience, which was a shame.

Brilliant performances by Sam Elliott and Joan Allen.
Super Reviewer
March 24, 2009
An excellent movie - great characters and succeeded in making me want to live off the map!
October 10, 2012
Doesn't She Have Any Friends?

I don't exactly know people who lived this kind of life. I know plenty of people who had hippie parents. I know plenty of people who were homeschooled. I know plenty of people who lived one kind of unconventional life or another as children. However, even the craziest of my friends' parents would not have raised their children the way the main character of today's film was raised. They went out of their way to ensure that their children had more social experiences than this character did. Even the hippiest of them still had that perverse belief of some parents that all it will take to be friends with someone is being their approximate age and having parents who have something in common. Still, that's better than isolating their child all but totally, miles from anything, never talking to outsiders of any kind. One of the most painful moments in the movie is her wish that the person from the outside would be different, but he became the same.

Bo (Valentina de Angelis) is twelve years old, and she lives with her parents on an isolated chunk of land in New Mexico. They get by on only a few thousand dollars a year, mostly veteran's benefits. Her mother, Arlene (Joan Allen), is your typical Earth Mother type, the kind of woman who weeds vegetable gardens naked. Her father, Charley (Sam Elliott), is a Korean War veteran in a severe depression. They have one friend, George (J. K. Simmons), who is also Bo's godfather. Arlene tries to talk him into getting antidepressants for Charley at the VA hospital, which Charley isn't much in favour of. Also, they are being audited by the IRS. Young William Gibbs (Jim True-Frost) is the agent sent to perform the audit. He is stung by a bee and spends three days essentially comatose on their couch, and when he wakes, he throws away his job (which he'd only held for a month) and moves in, now spending his time as a painter.

We know that Bo grows into Amy Brenneman, and there are worse fates. She seems to be a writer, which is a common career for the children of unconventional parents, at least if you believe the movies. It strikes me, though, that all these stories are the children still unable to move out of their parents' shadows. "This is how interesting my parents were." It's never how interesting their own lives are; it's never the things having such unconventional parents let them be able to explore. It's never the good or bad of their later lives unless it somehow involves dealing with their parents again. Bo wants nothing more than to lead a conventional life, or at least a more conventional life than the one she knows. She is fascinated by William's briefcase. She irons his tie while he is unconscious. She is lost and lonely in ways her parents never identify. She writes to snack companies with false claims that there was something wrong with the product in order to get things free; lemon cupcakes don't exactly grow in the garden.

On the other hand, I was mostly pleased with how Charley's depression was shown. He cries, but not constantly. Mostly, he is silent. He locks himself into small, enclosed spaces. He says nothing to his wife or his child. He takes the drugs, because they tell him they will put them in his food if he doesn't. And given that the film is set in 1974, they aren't exactly state-of-the-art antidepressants. It's not improbable that they will have really horrible side effects. He doesn't want to take them, and he ends up resenting it mightily that Arlene is more concerned with giving the drugs to the chickens than to him, though I will point out that even a single pill a week to a chicken is a much higher dosage than a pill a day to a human. Many more adults than most people realize go through at least one incident of this kind of depression in their lives, and maybe seeing Sam Elliott portray it will encourage someone out there to get some help. People have all sorts of triggers, after all.

I think the popularity of this kind of movie, and there are an awful lot of them, is the idea that people would love to go and live out in the middle of nowhere, hardly needing any money at all. It's part of the Great American Dream--living off the land and not needing anyone else. However, I also think there are conflicting American dreams, and this one isn't mine. I have no interest in living off the land. That's a lot of work, and it's not work I enjoy. I also don't think people really put a lot of thought into what this kind of life does to the children. Okay, Bo was hardly the only twelve-year-old in 1974 who didn't know how credit cards work. There are probably kids today who don't know how credit cards work. But does she know how to make friends? She decides that she's going to start school, and I'm glad, but at the same time, there are problems. It's too late for Bo to get some of the basics of dealing with people her own age; she is always going to be different, and not always for the better.
January 9, 2012
I remember watching this movie a lot when I was younger and it's a amazing movie and the story is flawless of how all the high-end stuff,and fancy living won't always make you happy. Off the Map is a wonderful film.
November 16, 2009
Off The Map, marvelously directed by Campbell Scott, is funny and touching and resonates with a beautiful sense of simplicity. Set in the beautiful New Mexico desert where Charley (Sam Elliott) and his wife Arlene (Joan Allen) reside with their 11-year old daughter Bo (Valentina de Angelis, a lovely talent), with the intention of avoiding modern things like electricity and runnig water. In the wonderful script, from Joan Ackermann adapted from her own play, is never exploitative and delicately and amazingly handles Charley's untreated depression, Arlene's eccentricities (she likes to garden in the nude) or Bo's frustration over not having friends. Enter an IRS man (Jim True-Frost) who comes into this modern Garden of Eden and sets off a series of felt changes in the family, changes caught in telling detail by Scott. Allen and Elliott are superb, performing small acting feats. They're both knockouts.
April 2, 2011
An offbeat comedy-drama is the best description for this movie. Quirky and slow moving, but I found it quite funny at times, and the cinematography is gorgeous.
May 8, 2010
This is a period piece that captures a slice of America's great cultural experiment of the 60's/70's in an understated, honest story. It is a subtle tale whose muted tones reflect the sculpted pastel sweep of the New Mexico landscape it is set in. The pace is slow and contemplative, which was the entire purpose of the back to the earth movement. But the performances are authentic enough that it is as much anthropology as drama.

Which is not to say it is dull. It isn't. I was sucked in from the outset. There is more going on in this movie than most films. A strong, charismatic man (played with remarkable restraint by Sam Eliot) is laid low by depression. His wife (Joan Allen) is unwaveringly patient, carrying on with the burden of providing while he is frozen within his malaise. Part Native American, she possesses a fragile beauty but is resolute and deeply grounded in pagan spirituality. Their twelve-year-old daughter (Valentina de Angelis) is bursting with youthful zeal as she begins her transition to womanhood. Irrepressible and precocious, she is isolated in the world of nature and adults.

For reasons that only a federal bureaucracy could plumb, the IRS decides to audit these economic minimalists. The Feds send a rookie auditor into the wilds of New Mexico to hunt down and persecute these hippies who have the audacity to deny the government millstone the grist of their lives. After days of wandering lost, the agent (Jim True-Frost) stumbles upon the homestead while the wife stands naked in the garden. He is stricken first by her beauty, then the family's, finally by the stark splendor of the landscape. He never goes back to the IRS.

There is so much in this story that many of the audience may miss while waiting for something exciting to happen. This movie is not about thrills. Its about beauty and integrity. It is about a great experiment in our culture that is still underway.
½ April 11, 2009
Too nice to have any deep impact, but Sam Elliott is magnetic and Joan Allen brings her usual dedication. In contrast, I found the girl to be pretty annoying, and Jim True-Frost never rang true. I just thought Campbell Scott could've narrowed the scope of the picture and worked with the setting to strengthen the audience's relationship to the characters and their specific dramas.
½ October 27, 2008
I watched this because it was filmed near Taos NM and Matthew made a brief appearance in it. It was pretty good. It is slow to start with but some of the scenes are beautiful, like Taos. The ending is nice.
½ March 11, 2008
Campbell Scott's latest foray behind the camera most excels as a subtly observed study of how the dynamics within a close-knit family can shift over time.
½ February 10, 2008
I felt this was a very nice story. Sam Elliot and Joan Allen both had done a very nice job throughout the movie!
February 9, 2008
Valentina de Angelis does a remarkable job playing Bo, and the subtleties between Joan Allen and Sam Elliott are incredible.
July 20, 2007
A movie I wanted to really like, but too clearly adapted from the stage for my liking -- the characters were a little too distant from each other. Does not swell to much, but nevertheless still quite appreciated.
½ July 27, 2007
I fell in love with this movie because it is based in Taos, New Mexico, my favorite place on earth. Joan Allen is becoming 1 of the greatest actresses of our time. Sam Elliot is amazing as the depressed Dad, but Valentina de Angelis as Bo makes this little gem perfect.
February 10, 2014
An exceptionally good film. The entire cast, was wonderful.
Super Reviewer
May 2, 2013
Sort of a Zen meditation about the accident that leads us to decide to discover what life is all about, that needs to discover in fact. Sometimes the writing and presentation is awkward but it comes off like well meaning, teenager-in-love awkwardness and, because of that, bearable. Beautiful New Mexico desert scenery dominates. Very approachable.
February 10, 2012
Me & my dads top 10!
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