A Map of the World
Imagine how tragic it would be if your best friend's child, a sunny, happy toddler just beginning to discover life, died. Now imagine that you and most of your community hold yourself responsible for that death, since it was you who wasn't in the room when the little girl decided to walk down by the pond and ended up floating in it, face-down. That's the burden Alice Goodwin (played magnificently by Sigourney Weaver) has to bear in A Map of the World, Scott Elliott's wrenching drama about friendship, marriage, families, destruction, and redemption. Based on the best-selling novel by Jane Hamilton (hand-picked by Oprah Winfrey to bear her book club's badge of honor), A Map of the World tells the story of Alice and her husband Howard (character actor extraordinaire David Strathairn), city folks who hoped to find fulfillment in running a Wisconsin dairy farm. Despite domestic chaos and frustrations at work Howard with his cows, Alice with the children she ministers to as the nurse at the local elementary school the Goodwins are a fairly functional, happy family. That is, until the fateful day Theresa (Julianne Moore), Alice's friend and neighbor, leaves her daughters at the Goodwins' house and little Lizzy tries to go swimming all by herself. Wracked by guilt and self-loathing, Alice can barely function. And then she gets arrested on child abuse charges filed by the mother of one of the students she treated. After she's taken to jail because they can't afford bail, Alice and her family find their values, beliefs, and faith in each other strained to the breaking point and beyond. A Map of the World is an actors' movie, and it shows. Weaver gives a mesmerizing performance as Alice, a woman so angry at herself for failing her best friend that she's almost glad to be behind bars, seeing it as the punishment she deserves, even if it's for a different "crime." Moore and Strathairn shine in their roles as well. Theresa's tragedy becomes the viewer's, and Howard's frustration and helplessness when Alice is arrested and he's left to take care of his daughters alone is painfully human and realistic. USA's DVD release comes with few extras, but it serves the film well with a crisp anamorphic transfer and rich colors that bring the Goodwins' world to life. Behind-the-scenes featurette, theatrical trailer, cast and crew notes. Keep-case.