Patrick Bergin, Anne Parillaud, Jason Scott Lee
There are myriad ice-and-snow shots in this highly appealing epic set partly in the Canadian Arctic. But director Vincent Ward never lets the frigid beauty of the Far North get in the way of the story, told in flashback by a broken, whiskey-sodden Eskimo (Lee). He thinks back more than three decades to the early 1930s, when he was a boy befriended by a cartographer (Bergin) who had come to map Arctic terrain. When Bergin notices the young Eskimo (played as a boy by the enchanting Robert Joamie) coughing up blood, he insists on flying him from the Arctic to a Montreal hospital for tuberculosis treatment. There—in one of Map’s most captivating sequences—Joamie meets a mischievous half-French, half-Indian girl and fellow TB patient (Annie Galipeau). But their teacher (Jeanne Moreau), distressed by the bond the two have formed, arranges for Galipeau to be transferred to an Ottawa hospital.
Flash forward .10 years to when the two have a joyful reunion in war-torn England. There, Lee has become a crew member on a Royal Air Force bomber, and the mature French-Indian girl (now played by Parillaud) is a photo analyst in a bomber command. What Parillaud neglects to tell her old friend immediately is that she is engaged to Bergin, whom she met through Lee, and who is now an RAF officer—and her passport out of mixed-race society. Still, Lee and Parillaud finish what they’d begun as children—falling passionately in love. Then Bergin, who reveals a heart as cold as the tundra, presents Lee with a choice: Give up Parillaud or fly an especially dangerous mission. What makes Map work, despite a cloddish ending, is the adroit use of the map theme and engaging performances by Lee and Parillaud. (R)