The Burning Plain, the directorial debut of Oscar-nominated screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, tells a story that seems as if it could have been lifted directly from some hidden corner of the Old Testament: the sins of the fathers are visited on the children, faithlessness is repaid with heartbreak, and sins most certainly find the sinner out. Guilt, pain, love, hate, unfaithfulness, treachery, and fear are stretched across a backdrop that spans from Mexico to Oregon, across languages and families and landscapes, across three seemingly disparate stories:

  • Sylvia (Charlize Theron) lives somewhere on the breaking point, sleeping with men at random but obviously intensely lonely and, deep down, disturbed. She works at a glamorous restaurant overlooking a swirling ocean and a rocky cliff, but it's clear that the real storm is within. One day, a mysterious stranger (José María Yazpik) starts following her around, and the secret he carries will rock her to her core.

  • Gina (Kim Basinger), despite the existence of a loving husband and four beautiful children, is having a torrid affair, but when her eldest daughter—the teenage Mariana (Jennifer Lawrence)—begins to suspect her mother, she sets in motion a chain of events that will alter the destiny of many.

  • A pair of brothers visits a burned-out trailer in the middle of nowhere, just before their father's funeral. One is bitter; the other is mostly curious, longing to know more of his father. His curiosity leads him toward another who has a similar loss, but their unlikely liaison is not destined for happiness.

This would be a great film, but its narrative structure just won't allow it. True to form, Arriaga (who wrote Amores Perros, 21 Grams, The Three Burials of Melquiades ...

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The Burning Plain
Our Rating
3 Stars - Good
Average Rating
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Mpaa Rating
R (for sexuality, nudity, and language)
Directed By
Guillermo Arriaga
Run Time
1 hour 47 minutes
Charlize Theron, John Corbett, José María Yazpik
Theatre Release
November 05, 2009 by 2929 Productions
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