A Map Of The World

on December 03, 1999 by Kevin Courrier
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"A Map of the World" is a self-consciously life-affirming movie that uses tragedy as a dramatic tool with which people can improve themselves. It's a noxious conceit at the best of times, but in "A Map of the World," the screenplay has such unspeakable dialogue that you don't even believe in the characters you're watching. Alice (Sigourney Weaver) is a highly-stressed mother who is also a school nurse. One day, while babysitting the daughter of her best friend, Theresa (Julianne Moore), the little girl drowns. While still in shock and grief, Alice is then wrongly charged with having sexually abused one of the students at school. While she spends time in prison awaiting trial, she finds her will and her strength.
Weaver is fine when suggesting the horrible grief of a mother responsible for the death of another child. But when she is bonding with the girls in lock-up, and she starts to get in touch with her nurturing side (making better women of all her cellmates), her character starts to make no sense. Howard (David Strathairn), her husband, is also ill-conceived as a callow and weak husband. Only Moore suggests a real human being, and she has a couple of touching moments with Strathairn while Alice is in jail.
Every life-affirming movie has a metaphor: As a child, Alice once painted a map of a make-believe world while her mother was dying. This movie seems to reside in a world that's equally fictitious. Starring Sigourney Weaver, David Strathairn, Julianne Moore, Arliss Howard, Louise Fletcher. Directed by Scott Elliott. Written by Peter Hedges and Polly Platt. Produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. No distributor set. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 125 min.
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