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  • "Off the Map" is an "old-fashioned" film that made me feel, in the immortal words of Frank Zappa, that it's f*cking great to be alive. This film took me to a place in my heart I haven't been since the wonderful Bill Forsyth ("Local Hero") faded from the movie-making scene. It is high time for humane, gentle, wholly original stories of people and places off the map (or in our technological dystopia, perhaps `off the radar screen' would be more appropriate) to fill our movie dreamscape again. New Mexico is the only place in the United States this could have been filmed because, indeed, only the Land of Enchantment could have fit this gorgeous, lyrical story so well.

    There wasn't a single relationship in this film that wasn't unique and fully realized. We've seen these set-ups before: the school-girl crush of Bo for William Gibbs, the awe-inspired worship of William for Arlene, the friendship between Charley and George. But don't we always get the caricatures, the popcorn images that point out the woeful arrested development of our country and its mythmakers? We think we want to be young forever. But it takes a film like "Off the Map" to show us all the richness we're missing out on by not growing up. (And the casting and direction of this ensemble of actors was nothing short of genius, especially Joan Allen. It's nice someone can see her as something more than middle-class white bread and pull this very individualistic performance out of her.)

    I'm feeling kind of emotional just thinking about some to the great scenes in this film: when Charley runs 20 miles to George's house and goads him into wrestling; when Charley and William talk about what it feels like to be depressed; when William watches Arlene standing naked in her garden watching the totemic coyote; when Bo extracts from George the information she needs to apply for a MasterCharge card; Arlene reading Bo's letter in the newspaper advice column; Bo thanking the squirrel for giving up its life to feed her and her family; George's presence, like an old pair of sneakers, in the Groden home.

    Like I said before, I didn't think people made films like this anymore. Thank you, Campbell Scott, for proving me wrong.
  • simonrosenbaum3 November 2003
    This is one of those films you can really lose yourself in. A woman is reminiscing about a time in the early seventies when she was 12 years old and her father was struck down with a bad dose of depression. First thing you notice is the amazing colours of New Mexico, the photography is stunning. Then there's the acting by Joan Allen, Sam Elliott and especially Valentina de Angelis which is sublime. The story is simple but heartbreaking and ocassionally very funny. When the film ends, like waking up after a beautiful dream, you'll long to keep that magical feeling for as long as possible. Not to be missed! (9/10)
  • This movie just blew my mind!! Let me start by quoting some of the review in LA Weekly:

    From beginning to end, the movie achieves nearly complete originality of expression that makes it as anomalous a figure on today's independent film landscape as the film's characters are on theirs. Sequestered on a ranch deep in the recesses of rural New Mexico, a part-Hopi woman (Joan Allen), her catatonic depressed husband (Sam Elliot) & their precocious 11-year old daughter (Valentina de Angelis) live off the land...

    The characters rarely do what we expect of them, while tragedy, absurdity and mordant humor are held in a precarious balance that recalls Sam Shepard at his best...

    The ocean meets the sky in a cycloramic mural that, like the movie itself, is a small masterpiece of tone and form. To watch Off the Map is to be pulled into a private universe on the brink of civilization--from which, at the end of two hours, it is impossible to exit unaffected.

    This is too true. Half the audience sat through all the credits & then sat for a long few minutes more, just unable to move. For the second time in a week--1st was after Dear Frankie--I was walking the beach for an hour working off feelings stirred up by a film. I don't usually react this way!!

    Some more observations from me:

    Acting: Joan Allen has GOT to get an Oscar nomination for this! She's excellent throughout, but there's one scene you will never forget: She's hoeing the garden nude with a floppy hat standing like a statue. I won't say more, but what you think is going on isn't. The whole way the scene is filmed is both hilarious & just wow all at once. She was so brave doing that--and no ridiculous implants for her! She's just gorgeous.

    Valentina: She shines. It reminded me of the reaction Natalie Portman got in Beautiful Girls. The one where men were saying, "I feel like a pervert, but I can't wait for her to grow up." But this blows Natalie away, in my opinion.

    Sam Elliot does an amazing job as the depressed husband. He looks old & grizzled these days but he's got a sexy deep sand papery voice I've always liked. And he's still handsome.

    Jim True-Frost plays a visitor who gets drawn into their strange world. He has several excellent scenes where he blurts out all these intense feelings.

    Script: The whole story is just so unique. And the dialog is really clever. It will remind you a little of David Mamet.

    Directing/camera-work: Campbell Scott created an amazing film and has an eye for beauty and a feel for understated but potent eroticism. But what really got me is the way they framed shots when the characters start doing something really random. The action often starts outside the audience's POV & pans over so you're craning in your seat to see what's going on in anticipation.

    I can't recommend this highly enough!
  • In the mid 90's I had the privilege of seeing Joan Ackerman's original play,"Off The Map" at Mixed Company,in Gt.Barrington,Ma,In the Berkshires-where it was originally produced and performed-the play was beautiful,powerful and I fell in love with it.

    This past Sunday-there was a special Fund Raising screening of "Off the Map" which I attended-with a Q&A with Joan and director Campbell Scott,afterword.The film blew me away!! Absolutely Stunning!! I came out of the theatre,feeling like I had been hit with something big-not sure what! The film is extremely faithful to the play-and really packs an emotional wallop to the soul-I couldn't have been more pleased with the cast-Top notch all around,with Sam Elliot playing against type-Joan Allen makes the perfect Arlene,and the girl,Valentina de Angelis was absolutely perfect as young Bo-as was the rest of the cast,J.K Simmons,Jim True-Frost- I am still stunned by this film,and am really looking forward to seeing it again,and owning it on DVD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • What a pleasure to see this movie--an intelligent and beautiful film that deals with real, grown-up (and growing-up) issues faced by real characters in thoughtful and believable settings. The young girl's character was excellently drawn and acted--as was the mother's, played by the wonderful Joan Allen--but Sam Elliot stole the movie for me. What a great piece of understated acting. The screen writing is wonderful, too, but the acting is truly phenomenal. The best American film since "American Beauty"...If you liked "Lost in Translation" or "Spring Forward" you will love this movie. Cameron Scott should be nominated for an Oscar for best director--his hand is so delicate yet knowing--thank you Cameron, for making sure this film got made, and for all you clearly must have done and been through to get it distributed. It is an amazing film.
  • aurora780220 November 2004
    I saw this film at the High Falls Film Festival in Rochester NY, and had the pleasure of speaking with many of the people involved in this production. I have to say that this is one of the best films I have seen in a while. It's REAL... with a tranquil quality.. but REAL in a way that we can all see and relate to these characters in some way. It is a "slow" film... but that's what makes it so AMAZING.... it sucks you into these peoples lives... not just the girl.. but those surrounding her. I would love to see more films made like this. Cudos to Camble Scott for such great direction and Joan Ackermann for writing such a beautiful play.. that is now on the BIG SCREEN!!

    Please, go see this film.. it takes you on an amazing ride.. BUT.. understand... that this is not an action flick... it is REAL... almost gritty and dreamy... one minute you will be laughing.. and seconds later your laugh will abruptly stop and tears may come to your eyes.. then.. back to laughter!!

    I highly recommend this film!!!
  • When a married Arlene Groden (Joan Allen) tells her house guest, William Gibbs (Jim True-Frost), that although it's nice he's expressed his love for her, it can be accounted for by the power of New Mexico, I knew I would express my love for this understated, eccentric, and satisfying film. While the two male heroes, Gibbs and Arlene's husband, Charley (Sam Neill), are both depressed in the clinical sense, the film is not about depression but rather the forces of devotion and simplicity that keep these retro-hippies functioning in a remote world somewhere around Santa Fe, Taos, and El Paso.

    Narrator Bo Groden (as adult, Amy Brenneman and as 12 year old, Valentina de Angelis) reminisces as an adult in voice-over about that 6 months of her father's immobilizing depression in the seventies and her own freedom in that pristine land where she could hunt, plink, and create without restriction. Bo is not a wild child but rather a home-schooled, precociously sensitive pre-teen who plans to leave here as soon as possible while she regularly receives gift packages from manufacturers whom she has threatened to sue over allegedly contaminated products. Her nonchalant but effective treatment of her father in his funks is one of the many acts that assure us she is quite capable of surviving anywhere. Director Campbell Scott's determination not to fill us with back stories on all the characters makes for an energetic exploration of the way they are at this time.

    Gibbs, who came from the IRS to audit the family, stays 8 years, long enough to paint New Mexican landscapes of note. His friendship with Charley is true and good, despite that fact that Charley probably knows Gibbs loves Arlene. Charley asks him, "Ever been depressed?" William replies, "I've never not been." Out of his passion for the landscape comes his sanity and a renewed interest in life that he seemed to have lost with the suicide of his mother, for which he feels responsible.

    "I am a damn crying machine," Charley says. You may end up crying as well, but only because not enough movies like this are made where insights into humanity are as abundant as the Groden's garden and their four years' supply of homemade canned goods. Lafcadio Hearn could have been describing the Grodens when he said, "It is only in the home-relations that people are true enough to each other, --and show what human nature is, the beauty of it, the divinity of it."
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Campbell Scott has directed a gem in OFF THE MAP. I had the chance to attend the premiere at Lincoln Center and was blown away by the performances of Sam Elliot, Joan Allen, J.K. Simmons, and Jim True-Frost. The New Mexican landscape complimented the story perfectly, and I felt as though I too was living on a ranch in the middle of a desert.

    Elliot, an actor best known for his commanding on-screen persona and deep booming voice, did a complete turn around in this film. He hardly speaks for the entire picture, taking on the persona of a depressed yet warm man. When he does speak, it is with the subtle wisdom of a father, who, as True- Frost's character puts it, "has it all." My only longing in this area was that I wanted to see more of Elliot before he dove into depression, to strengthen the contrast.

    Allen complements Sam perfectly as a metaphorical "mother earth" holding the family together as her husband suffers through the necessary ritual of unwarranted depression. She is so overwhelmingly beautiful in this film that when Jim True-Frost shows up, playing an IRS man there to audit the family for neglecting taxes indefinitely (neither Elliot or Allen work, they live off the land and on what they find in the local dump) he falls hopelessly in love with her and their centered, untarnished lifestyle.

    True-Frost really makes a mark in this movie, and I would not be surprised if we see much more of him in the indie future. His character is a drifter working for the IRS (if you can believe the irony) and while not looking to find himself, he finds something much more important, beauty in the world around him, in the New Mexican landscape, and in painting with the water colors J.K. Simmons has purchased in an attempt to pull Elliot out of the depths of depression.

    Simmons is delightfully refreshing as Elliot's long time best friend. He silently amuses in the role, with the quiet nature of someone who is truly at peace with all things around him.

    The film also marks the debut of Valentina de Angelis, in the spunky role of Bo who ties everything together. We follow her as she yearns to escape from the very seclusion that her parents, Allen and Elliot embrace. She is rough at times, delivering lines that seem wise beyond her years, and it seems that as time progresses she may develop her craft into something greater. She has a face the screen loves, and undoubtedly that is why she was cast.

    Campbell Scott is the true star here. The visuals are mindblowing. He weaves the people in the film into the land he shoots on, and creates visual illusions that are more often than not extraordinary. I would be remiss in not mentioning Joan Ackermann, whose writing makes this story far more meaningful than it might have been had the family been using electricity, plumbing, and a phone. After all, aren't the modern conveniences what prevent us from true personal reflection?

    Bravo Mr. Scott. Bravo. Yes, it's a long film, and if it were a studio picture it would be 30 minutes shorter - but Scott made the film he wanted to, and we are all lucky to partake in his perspective of desert mirage.
  • I just loved this movie. Anyone who values character driven indie films lucky enough to be near a screening of this film should rush to see it. I left the film feeling I really knew these fascinating characters, and felt lucky to have known them for the last two hours. This film would be perfect for the film festival circuit, I don't know why they didn't go that route, for that would have built word of mouth for a better placed release. It deserves the art house circuit, but is screening in multiplexes that won't nurture it; and audiences that prefer this kind of movie never venture into these theaters. OK, the film: Magical New Mexican vistas, wonderful paintings, sensitive direction, breathtaking acting by all. Every character had their own story, whether it was coming-of-age, sensual awakening, recovery, or fulfillment. Yet all these stories seamlessly integrated into the whole. Just go and enjoy.
  • delphine09019 March 2005
    This film confirms once more my determination to seek out indie and "off the map" film in lieu of the current terrible "mainstream" fare.

    The acting is superb - Joan Allen's quietly powerful Arlene nurtures us with her presence (and her unstudied sensuality), Sam Elliot's Charley stunningly conveys his immense pain and frustration with few words, and Valentina de Angelis' Bo is simply a marvel as she tries to navigate her father's depression with the naivete and innocent wisdom of a child (and she's beautiful, to boot). Have I mentioned that Sam Elliot is consistently amazing? In my opinion, his quietly powerful acting has always been underrated. As Charley emerges from his depression, Elliot's sex appeal shines again as well.

    Jim True-Frost's Gibbs is a subtle, complex study of a man figuring out where his peace lies and J.K. Simmons' simply centered George anchors the other characters.

    The movie is beautifully shot, drawing us in bit by bit as the movie progresses with the beauty of New Mexico which at first seems rather desolate.

    The minimalist "soundtrack" to the movie is the sound of the desert itself - wind chimes, coyotes and owls, the blowing wind, the sound of wood on wood. Everything keeps you grounded where these people live. What could have been conveyed as an absurd lifestyle is fully realized and we understand why they've chosen it.

    Scott tells us a story but doesn't tell us how to feel about it - which is one of the most powerful differences between films such as this and "mainstream", well, crap. It is what it is, the characters do what they do, they aren't predictable archetypes but unique human beings, there are surprises, nothing is broadcast - just like real people, real lives.

    We believe in this family of characters and in this story. Excellent film.
  • cwhyel4 September 2005
    Worth watching, plain and simple.

    I was torn somewhat between the precocious kid and the depressed dad. It was a little too much and yet the simple beauty of the New Mexico landscape offset their performance. A tighter conflict would have helped the pacing.

    Everything seemed to balance itself out though, and most should find something to like about this movie.

    I adore Joan Allen. She is built like a leading lady, looks, walks and talks like a leading lady yet is a great character actor as proved here. I had to look a little close to recognize her and I love that in great acting talent.

    Sam Elliott, a veritable man's man, held steady. I think his effort was commendable though having been around persons afflicted with various types of depression, his seemed a bit vague, and uneven. It was like a functioning catatonia with bouts of chattering. I didn't get it. Since his mental illness was,in essence, the spine of the story, the spine was a bit bent. Still,handsome Sam is still watchable and worthy of our respect as he does not seem uncomfortable with his gray hairs or his wrinkles. Very anti-Hollywood.

    Of the ensemble cast, I really enjoyed J.K. Simmons. Simmons who seems to have put most of the food on the table career-wise by playing nasties (especially in OZ) as well as disaffected authority figures, was refreshing as George, an everyman with a simpleness that was most enjoyable.

    In closing, I think I would have liked the movie better if they had given proper treatment to the depressive issues affecting Charlie, Sam Elliott's character. Mental illness advocates might agree.

    Still it was a bit like Walden Pond, New Mexico with more people.

    Again, my criticisms aside, there is plenty to like about this. It's worth the time to watch this movie.
  • The great thing about "Off the Map" is how beautifully it tells its simple story. It's about a family, mother (Joan Allen), father (Sam Elliott) and daughter named Bo who live completely by their own means, and well off the main road. Having not paid taxes on the little bit of money they make, an IRS agent (Jim True-Frost) comes to find them.

    It really is just a character study, primarily about the daughter as she watches the interactions of the adults around her and what she really wants out of life, and about the IRS agent who learns about himself by meeting these people who live their life in a way he never realized.

    It's an independent drama driven by a simple narrative and simple shots. The characters aren't all investigated as they probably should have been, and it does move very slowly. But for those who like sitting back and just observing characters, "Off the Map" is well done. I was particularly impressed by Jim True-Frost's performance, and the young Valentina De Angelis as Bo.
  • Loved this movie. It has a naturalness that you don't see much of these days. Starts off a little slow, but really grows on you as you get to know the characters. Particularly, liked how the hidden connection between the characters. Like the parents carrying the karmic burden of their visitor. And the schemes that the young girl would come up with makes for very amusing viewing. Don't expect too much to happen it is not that kind of movie, here the world moves at a difference pace, no clock, no rush, no hustle-bustle. In our materialistic world, it shows that there is still is some spirit in our land. All very thought provoking...
  • Winsome tale of a little family that chose in 1974 to unplug themselves from the "grid" of middle class life and go live off the land in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico. A windmill pumps their well water. They read by kerosene lamps. They grow vegetables. They've gradually stored away four years of food and three years of firewood.

    Cash comes in the form of a small VA pension to the head of the household, Charley Groden (basso voiced Sam Elliott), plus some modest crop sales. All told, they take in about $5,000 a year. Which makes it curious indeed when they receive notice that the IRS is dispatching an agent to visit. But wait a minute, I'm getting ahead of things.

    The other family members are Arlene Groden (the immensely versatile Joan Allen) and Bo (Valentina de Angelis), Charley and Arlene's precocious 12 year old daughter. A good friend, lonely bachelor George (J. K. Simmons), hangs around so much he seems like family too. The time in question here, when Bo was 12, actually was maybe a decade ago, for we are learning this story as a narrative reminiscence told to us by a now adult Bo.

    The summer when she was 12 was marked not only by the advent of William Gibbs (Jim True-Frost), the IRS man, but by the occurrence of Charley's first ever episode of deep depression. It went on for months. He sits mute most of the time. Eats little. Sleeps little. Cries softly a lot. Refuses to seek professional aid from the VA.

    Arlene manages to keep things going, but her generally serene style is eroding as the weeks go by. It doesn't help that Bo is restless, tired of her isolation, chafing to go to regular school, get a credit card, move out into the larger world. Not one to hide her light, Bo complains eloquently about her boring life, even as she maintains a loving, respectful attitude toward her parents.

    The arrival of William Gibbs destabilizes the precarious symmetry of these people's lives. Turns out Gibbs is depressed too: maybe not as severely as Charley, but it's gone on for many years. He just became an IRS agent lately, grasping at some possible change for the better. In thrall to Arlene's mystical ways and beauty, Gibbs drops out of the IRS, moves into an old schoolbus on the property, and takes up watercolor painting.

    Arlene and Bo are both grateful for attention from a new face. And, perhaps in a house too small for two depressed males, Charley begins to come out of his shell, with some help from a borrowed bottle of antidepressant pills that fire up a manicky conclusion to his near catatonic state. Even George comes to life and goes hunting for a woman to marry.

    This is a small film about unconventional people, folks who don't fit the molds of middle class, rich, arty or neurotic urbanity that typify the subjects of so much traditional fiction – print and film. Adapted from a stage script by the playwright, Joan Ackermann, this work reminds me of the novels about quirky, offbeat people that have become so popular in the past few years.

    I'm thinking of the work of authors like Louise Erdrich ("The Beet Queen"), E. Annie Proulx ("The Shipping News" – which, incidentally, was adapted into a fine film that did not receive the recognition it deserved), or Anne Tyler ("Clockwinder," " Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant," "A Slipping Down Life").

    The movie is not without its hitches. Why is a coyote - to which Arlene had developed an intense spiritual connection - killed? How did Bo actually acquire that credit card and get approval to use it for such a grand and costly gift? The film starts somewhat bumpily. For a while it seems like Ms. de Angelis will overwhelm both her family and us viewers with her domineering intelligence. But with time, she, like the film itself, wins you over.

    Indeed, "Off the Map" ends by charming you, making this film a pleasant surprise. It's of interest to compare "Off the Map" to another recent release about 1970s dropouts, Rebecca Miller's "The Ballad of Jack and Rose." That film more or less trashes the whole ideal of living a life according to values that run against the stereotypical middle class norms of acquiring material possessions and working to pay off the resultant debts.

    The fact that Jack and his merry band failed to sustain their alternative way of life is implicitly presented as evidence that their aims were unsound, invalid. "Off the Map," on the other hand, conveys a better sense of what motivated people to drop out back then and shows that at least some dropouts achieved a measure of success.

    I don't know why, but it took two years to bring this decent film to the screen (made in 2003, it is only receiving commercial distribution now). My rating: 7/10 (B). (Seen on 04/13/05). If you'd like to read more of my reviews, send me a message for directions to my websites.
  • The only way I ever heard about this movie was at Blockbuster when I was browsing and saw "two thumbs way up." Then I saw that Joan Allen was in it and checked it out. Nothing in my life has mezermized me the way this film did for a couple of hours. I read the book "godfather" in the early 1970s on a Sunday morning and afternoon when I had planned to watch two football games. This film captivated me in exactly the same way. All I can say is, I evaluate films based on (acting, direction, writing, cinematography, music, plot or lack therof). This film puts you exactly in a place you would like to be for the amount of time it runs.

    It is just like your favorite adult drink at just the right time you want to imbib...
  • TurgidOne16 September 2005
    An artfully done, sensitive film that I somehow missed at the theater but that, thankfully, has been released on DVD.

    Campbell Scott, a damned fine actor, goes behind the cameras to bring us a very poignantly portrayal of how some lives beyond society's mad rush are built with conviction and grace.

    Joan Allen does a terrific job as an "earth mother" who serves as a "ground" in the lives of a precociously brilliant child, a depressed but persevering husband, his unconsciously lonely friend, and a visiting -- but lost -- IRA agent.

    It has been said that humans have one of the longest gestation periods because brain development is not complete until many years after birth. This movie suggests our spiritual development may not be complete until much later yet, if ever, and reaffirms the beauty of those courageous enough to heed the notions of the soul.
  • OFF THE MAP is so unique a film that comparisons pale. Adapted from her own play Joan Ackermann has written a screenplay whose main character is the high desert of New Mexico and the magical influence that natural beauty and tranquility of the place has on people. Campbell Scott directs this intimate little story with such tenderness and intelligence that he has created what doubtless will become a cult classic.

    The time is the early 1970s, and the location is an isolated single home north of Taos owned by a strange family who live on less than $5000. a year by being at one with the land for its provisions. Charley (Sam Elliott) is in a chronically depressive state, unable to speak much and preferring to simply sit in the dark and periodically weep. His resilient wife Arlene (Joan Allen) fends for the family, gardening for food and hunting for meat, selling crafts at the periodic fairs in Taos, and caring for her husband. Their daughter Bo (Valentina de Angelis) is 11 and not only fully capable of living the life style of her family, but also at the same time longing for the ability to leave home and see the world, a desire she feeds by wisely devising rebates on food purchases, applications for credit cards etc. The family's solid friend is George (JK Simmons) who has known Charley since their Korean War days and is fraught with his friend's severe depression.

    Into this physically gorgeous terrain that is home to this odd family comes an IRS agent William Gibbs (Jim True-Frost) sent by his new government boss to collect back taxes from the family who has not seen the necessity to pay taxes on their below modest income. William approaches the house, sees Arlene gardening in the nude, is stung by a bee, and lapses into an allergic reaction, a situation that makes him a patient in the household for some days. Bo is fascinated with this 'man form the outside world', Arlene cares for the patient, and Charley quietly opens up to him once William recovers. William's car has been stripped in the desert and he is invited to live with the family until the car is restored.

    Each of the family members is changed by William's presence, but none more than William himself who undergoes an epiphany viewing the Sangre de Cristo mountains approach sunset: William forsakes his previous life, begins to paint with watercolors George had intended for Charley as a therapeutic venture, and informs Arlene that he has fallen in love with her. The entire group influence each other's lives and the manner in which this happens is such rare magic that saying more in a review would be unfair to those who have yet to experience this film.

    The entire cast is absolutely superb, so much so that it is impossible to name the Star: Sam Elliott, Joan Allen, Valentina de Angelis, Jim True-Frost, and JK Simmons give stunning performances, the quality of acting that takes full advantage of silences, body language, probing into the characters, and most important - understanding the importance of ensemble acting. Yet if one must name the standout performance, it would be the radiant mystical land of New Mexico as captured by cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchía. Campbell Scott has directed a great screenplay and cast in one of the best movies of the year. It is a quiet, majestic work of art. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp
  • Imagine living in a gentle place. I always have wanted that. No wonder I couldn't find it, it's "Off The Map".

    You'd approve of these people, and yet they aren't participating in the corporate capitalist society in any meaningful way. They don't even have electricity. They're on with the real meaning of life. The story is told from the viewpoint of the child of the family, who knows no other existence, but is aware of other styles of living. She's quite smart and adept at figuring things out. And she does! The mother carries on her Hopi mother's recipes. The father is deep in depression, almost completely non-responsive. Mom wants to get him on medication. Uncle Frank is like a silent partner to the family, he's just always there. They have a visit from the IRS.
  • I don't remember seeing any movie like this one. And I don't buy movies retail. This is the exception - I will be happy to pay retail for the DVD. And I still feel this movie's resonance just writing about it now. The feelings. It seems to have all those good things of spirit and substance that quality movies aspire to. If I could write or direct a movie half this good, I'd be a hell of a contender. (they require ten lines of text for these reviews, though I've said all I wanted to I will add that the setting, the shots, the performances are great. Especially Joan Allen, who is also killer in: "The Contender", "When the Sky Falls" and "The Upside of Anger". And probably anything else she's been in for that matter. Her performance in "The Bourne Supremacy" should have been noticed by the Oscar Academy for Supporting Actress, and critics as well, for this reason: She nailed a deceptively difficult part. Sometimes the straight ahead simple roles are much harder to pull off, than extreme character roles of malady or affliction. She's absolutely convincing. She's one of those rare laser actors...creating the real.)
  • crystalb2316 March 2005
    It was like a painting unfolding; the characters seemed bizarre and still authentic; the story was not simplified for the audience and everyone wanted to talk about their views; slow but never boring. We all missed something in the storyline and comparing notes afterward gave us all a new perspective on the movie. It was great that the director did not try to explain it all to us but let us either guess or understand what we could on our own. I thought the acting by the little girl is award performance level and if they released it closer to fall two or three of the actors might have been given an academy nod. It was a really great movie.
  • lphan29 March 2005
    I must say. . .I was excited about the reviews this film's been generating. I prefer Indie and/or foreign films, and have enjoyed the following: "What's Eating Gilbert Grape", "Brothers McMullen", "Boys Don't Cry", "You Can Count on Me", "Maria Full of Grace", "Real Women Have Curves", "Born Into Brothels", and "The Sea Inside".

    Unfortunately, I can not add "Off the Map" to the library of films I've enjoyed. Moreover, I nearly walked out on this film (something I've never done before). Painfully slow to develop. The plot really doesn't exist. Yes, the father suffers from depression but the story never explores the emotional toll it's taken on the other characters. Joan Allen had a nice performance, but not great enough to save this boring film. And the IRS character? So misplaced and only added to the scattered storyline. The only redeeming thing about this film was the complexity of Bo's character and her emotional dynamics w/ George, the family friend who symbolically becomes the father figure. Yet, 5 minutes of hope doesn't save the remaining 2 hours (which seemed like an eternity).

    I'm surprised because I never think so harshly of an Indie film. Yet, I feel obligated to warn others who have high expectations. You'll be disappointed, much like I was.
  • I didn't know Campbell Scott was directing as well as acting - this film was a great surprise. This is another film I got to discover years after it was made because of Netflix. I chose it because of Sam Elliot and Joan Allen but all of the actors were good in this piece. Scott's got a deft touch and the combination of art, feeling, observation, reaction, and resolution are layered beautifully. The best thing was how well the film draws you into itself without any heavy- handedness. Really loved the experience. It was nice to see (through interviews on the DVD) that it was probably as interesting for the participants as it was to watch.
  • tbidder9 September 2005
    Saw this at the theater, and have thought about it so often since that I picked it up on DVD. Can't understand why Sam Elliott and Joan Allen didn't get an Oscar nod. In the day of grandiose epics and formulaic plots, this movie about people is refreshing. Seemingly simple at the surface, the depth of characters is astounding. If you've ever been through beautiful New Mexico, you just know that there must be people like this living off the land. The actors in this movie disappear into the movie, and you almost feel like a peeping tom, sneaking a peek into their private lives. You feel the emotion of confronting the IRS and you understand why Joan Allen is gardening au natural. It's not a flashy movie by any means, but it is one that has stuck in my mind. Don't miss this one!
  • I wasn't looking when I found "Off the Map". It was the afternoon following a major power outage, and I was headed to Chicago to visit my love only a few short days later. I'd gotten the DVD from my local library, and was debating whether or not to watch it before it had to be returned the following day. I can't express how glad I am that I took the time when I did.

    Like many of my favorite films, a young person is at the center of things. Bo (played by Valentina de Angelis) is tied up in all the ideas and possibilities of growing up, lost into her own world where few people live, and none anywhere close to her own age. This is a film fully populated with great actors giving wonderful performances. I loved Joan Allen, Sam Elliott, J.K. Simmons, and Jim True-Frost for the humanity they get across here. How they interact is unpredictable and constantly believable. The director (Campbell Scott) gives them a ton of breathing room. The scene where Joan Allen's character stands naked in the garden staring down a coyote happens seemingly outside of time, a triangle between her, the animal, and the arrival of a stranger who is shocked to find her in this state. This all happens in total silence until a bee sting ends the moment.

    It's small scenes of beauty like these, perfectly photographed by Juan Ruiz Anchía (who also shot "The Stone Boy"), that keeps the rhythm flowing, like large stones in a winding river pushing the film along. When "Off the Map" reached its end, I was in tears. Not because of a single sad thing that occurred, but for the final emotional release. I was set free in watching this. Lifted up and brought back to life. I owe this film all the beauty of one dark December day I'll never forget
  • Some big films leave one dissatisfied and some little films leave one feeling very satisfied. 'Off the Map,' while living up to its title by easing onto DVD with no fanfare at all (Was it ever in mainstream theaters?), is certainly one of the latter.

    I doubt that it will connect with many 16-25-year-old males … at least not the ones who need sex, several explosions and characters morphing into super humans to be entertained. It is one of those quiet films where very little actually 'happens.' Of course, many of the better films in history, from Carl Theodor Dreyer's awesome Le Passion de Jeanne d'Arc to All About Eve and 12 Angry Men to The Big Chill and the Royal Tenenbaums, are essentially about people sitting around, talking, when one gets right down to it. Each tells a significant tale and tells it extraordinarily well. So does this little gem.

    Any film with Sam Elliott in it has a certain element of class. (He even lent a smidge of dignity to Ghost Rider.) He is magnificent here as the depressed Charley Braden. He is a man who has built his life and family on a survivalist creed that a man wastes time working for an employer. Instead, he should be learning skills he can put to use. He can fix anything, his family brags, and presumably this skill is bartered, along with firewood, plant care and other services. The family survives on virtually no money and home schools the narrator daughter, 11 or 12-year old Bo (Valentina de Angelis).

    The film depicts a summer (apparently during the 1970s or 1980s) when Charley somehow plummets into depression. His lovely and sturdy wife Arlene (Joan Allen) is pushed almost to the breaking point dealing with his condition. Meanwhile, Bo dreams of a "normal" life with all the trappings of the adult commercial world, briefcases, appointment books and credit cards, not to mention public school.

    Their world is transformed that summer when depressed IRS man William Gibbs (Jim True-Frost) shows up for an audit. He winds up staying almost indefinitely, taken in by the awe inspiring landscape and by the simple family – especially Arlene.

    The cast is outstanding. Elliott and Allen are perfect as the minimalist couple, who apparently have been happy and productive for years in their chosen lifestyle. As others have said, Allen's solid foundation holds the film together, just as her character does the fictional family. True-Frost does marvelous work as the displaced agent, who finds himself as a painter and becomes a family member. DeAngelis is perky and enjoyable as the precocious Bo. I can certainly see such a bright young kid who lacks some of the social graces of regular social intercourse with others saying and doing the slightly bizarre things that Bo comes up with. J.K. Simmons is also very good as Charley's loyal buddy, George.

    For a "talking" film to work it takes good cinematography and believable characters one cares about. This film has these in spades. The landscape shots are spectacular. (It's too bad almost nobody got to see it on the big screen.) The characters, meanwhile, are quirky and likable, and the acting is first-rate. Director Scott Campbell succeeds in telling a rewarding story of love, individuality and determination.

    I came away with a very satisfied feeling after watching Off the Map. It's certainly the best new film I've seen in 2009. For anyone who can appreciate a skillful and deep, yet simple film, this is a real winner.
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