Burn Your Maps is a paint by numbers feel good movie. It yanks at your heartstrings even as you see the swerves coming. Writer/director Jordan Roberts packs his film with enough charm, engaging performances, and aspirational messages that you may not even care.
After suffering a tragedy, Alise (Vera Farmiga) and Connor’s (Marton Csokas) family is coming apart at the seams. We meet these characters amidst a marriage counseling session. The duo plays wonderfully off of each other. Farmiga comes at the material with hurricane level force while Csokas plays it tentative and buttoned up. Alise is a raw nerve while Connor’s thoughts are always half a mile down the road. Caught between the two is their son Wes (Jacob Tremblay), a young boy who believes he is…Mongolian.
While Farmiga and Csokas are great, it’s Suraj Sharma’s performance as Ismail that steals every scene. Ismail is charming, earnest, and funny — bordering on dickish. It’s a role that could have easily gone off the rails. Ismail feels like a character and not a caricature (think Dev Patel in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel).
All fiction is make-believe, but some stories ask us to suspend our disbelief more than others. Burn Your Maps requires that you actively suspend your disbelief. This won’t be a problem for some and a huge issue for others. You can see the plot beats coming from miles away. Fortunately, strong performances keep the story engaging even while it’s woefully predictable.