Off The Map

Off The Map (2003)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Joan Allen, Sam Elliot, Valentina de Angelis, Amy Brenneman, J.K. Simmons, Jim True-Frost
Extras: Directors Audio Commentary, Featurettes, Previews

Director Campbell Scott delivers the quaintly original film "Off the Map, " set in the New Mexican desert. This film tells the story of Bo (Valentina de Angelis), a restless young lady who spends her time writing to various companies complaining of fictitious "problems" with their brands, all in an effort to receive free product from them, while dreaming of one day leaving her rather unconventional family. Living in a borderline shabby residence with her mother Arlene (Joan Allen), who possesses near hippie-like qualities and her father Charley (Sam Elliot), who is struggling from the effects of a paralyzing depression, which leaves him in tears most of the time. Surviving on a miniscule veteran's compensation of $5,000 a year, the family is stunned when they receive notice that they are being audited by the I.R.S. When federal auditor William Gibbs (Jim True-Frost) arrives at their doorstep, he suffers an allergic reaction from a bee sting causing him to experience a high fever, leaving Arlene to nurse him back to health. During his stay with the family, William experiences a virtual life changing awakening as he abandons plans to return to his job in the city, instead living with his new adopted family and taking up painting as a new interest.

Presenting quick-witted dialogue with a simple, yet well written story that is filled with solid performances, especially one turned in from Valentina de Angelis, this heartwarming tale makes for one heck of a terrific crowd pleaser.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment takes us "Off the Map" as it presents this nice little gem of a film in a decent anamorphic widescreen format. Unfortunately the transfer suffers a few problems in its overall presentation, exhibiting fine grain from video compression and minor dust and dirt particles that are visible throughout the film. Black levels are not deep enough, causing fine details in night scenes to almost completely disappear at certain points that leave the overall contrast "wanting". Color reproduction is good, providing flesh tones that are natural in appearance, but the transfer could easily benefit from a richer saturation level. Even though I felt the presentation could have been improved upon, I still highly recommend this film as it is quite simply one of the better films that I have had the chance to experience this past year.

There is good balance and sonic detail present in the available Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Providing vocals that appear natural in reproduction, with conservative use of surrounds, the sound mix compliments the visual content appropriately.

Special features include an audio commentary from director Campbell Scott, two documentary-style featurettes, the first is "Sundance Channel: Anatomy of a Scene: Off the Map" and the other feature is titled "Sundance Channel: Out there Now", with a selection of previews fulfilling the balance of the extras section.

"Off the Map" is one of those films that leave you with a good feeling, without excessively nauseating themes that can drain your emotions quickly, if you are in the mood for a good character driven story, I can honestly recommend spending time with this affecting film.