It’s taken nearly three years for “Burn Your Maps” to receive a perfunctory theatrical release since it premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, and it arrives as neither a buried treasure nor a massive folly. Instead, it’s merely a routinely quirky indie about coping with death and living life to its fullest.
The gimmick here is that combative couple Alise (Vera Farmiga) and Connor (Marton Csokas) are so immersed in their own grief over the loss of their infant daughter that they barely notice their 8-year-old son, Wes (Jacob Tremblay, who was just about to break out in “Room” when this was filmed), has decided he’s a Mongolian goat herder trapped in the body of a suburban American kid. Seriously.
Faster than anyone can say “cultural appropriation,” Wes has bonded with Alise’s English student Ismail (an overly hammy Suraj Sharma), a recent immigrant from India, and the pair embark with Alise on a trip to the steppes of Mongolia to make a documentary about Wes’ “homecoming.”
It’s all very strange and more than a bit silly, but somehow — even as characters travel halfway around the world — the plot never journeys anywhere that surprising. Director Jordan Roberts, who also adapted the screenplay from a short story by Robyn Joy Leff, takes an affectionate but formulaic approach, mixing earnest emotional beats with requisite comedic notes to counterbalance the melodrama. Fortunately, he has a secret weapon in Farmiga, an actress with the preternatural ability to make even the film’s most ridiculous elements feel authentic.
‘Burn Your Maps’
Rating: PG-13, for thematic elements including some mature sexual material, and brief strong language
Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Playing: Starts June 21, Galaxy Mission Grove, Riverside; also VOD