The Burning Plain
- Director:Guillermo Arriaga
- Cast:Joaquim De Almeida, Kim Basinger, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron
- Release Date:April 22, 2010
- Running time:106 minutes
- Film Worth:$9.00
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
While the film’s jigsaw style narrative is mildly intriguing, this grim drama falls into melodrama
Fans of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu will know that his multilayered films - which skilfully weave together disparate stories - owe much of their credit to screenwriter, Guillermo Arriaga. The pair have collaborated on a trilogy of projects which began with 2000's Amores Perros and was followed by 2003's 21 Grams and 2006's Babel. In his directorial debut, The Burning Plain, Arriaga again works from an everything-is-connected screenplay but with Iñárritu absent, the film teeters into melodrama.
The Burning Plain opens with a trailer exploding in the New Mexico desert and the doomed lovers inside are housewife, Gina (Kim Basinger), and a Mexican man named Nick (Joaquim De Almeida). Yearning to understand his father's death, Nick's son (J.D. Pardo) reaches out to Gina's teenage daughter (Jennifer Lawrence) and the two develop an intense but tender romance.
The second arm of the story concerns a sexually voracious and emotionally withdrawn restaurant manager (Charlize Theron) who spends her days in bleak Portland. She's stalked by an enigmatic Mexican man who surfaces in yet another narrative subplot.
As the narrative cuts back and forth between landscapes and across timelines, the audience spends most of the film's first third piecing together the mildly intriguing jigsaw. However, once it all clicks into place and viewers are left to engage with the characters, the heavy misery and self-importance of the piece becomes overwhelming.
There's nothing wrong with a sense of seriousness per se but these characters are so defined by the tragedy and grim sadness of their lives that they border on clichés. The fact that the film remains watchable is largely due to the strong performances by the three female leads - Basinger, Theron and Lawrence - who each invest their characters with a mixture of grit and vulnerability.
As the mysteries of the film's narrative are relatively easy to unravel, Arriaga is really testing viewers' patience to wait two hours to confirm what they already know. When the moment of clarity and catharsis finally arrives at the film's close, audiences will find themselves hard-pressed to care.