Off the Map
Made in 2003, Off the Map was not released until 2005. It caps a formidable year for the formidable Joan Allen, who stars in this beguiling indie as the matriarch of a family living “off the map” without electricity or money in New Mexico. Arlene Groden — granddaughter of a Native American (the blonde Allen goes brunette), wife of a Vietnam vet (Sam Elliott) and earth mother to a 12-year-old daughter (Valentina de Angelis) — is far from the spectacularly angry Wasp of The Upside of Anger or the unfulfilled, cheating scientist of Yes, yet the trifecta of performances is an undeniable testament of her underappreciated talent and range. Here she gardens nude, shoots bears and finds kindred spirits in coyotes as her husband zombies his way through a major depression and her daughter plots her way into civilization. The film follows them for a summer as their world is changed by the arrival of an IRS agent (Jim True-Frost). A quiet, moving character study, Off the Map never drifts into genre predictability and features uniformly excellent acting and sharp one-liners from screenwriter Joan Ackerman. It makes a compelling case for fringe living, and illuminates the travesty of Allen’s Oscar-less mantle.