BURNING PLAIN, THE
People separated by time and space: Sylvia (Charlize Theron), a restaurateur in Oregon must undertake an emotional odyssey to deal with her demons; Mariana (Jennifer Lawrence) and Santiago (Danny Pino), two teenagers trying to piece together the shattered lives of their parents in a New Mexico border town; Maria (Tessa Ia), a little girl who goes on a cross-border voyage to help her separated parents find redemption, forgiveness, and love; and Gina (Kim Basinger) and Nick (Joaquim de Almeida), a couple who must deal with their intense but illicit affair.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
An isolated trailer, parked in the empty plain around the New Mexico border with mountain peaks as the backdrop is burning furiously; by the time the film ends, we will have pieced together why it's burning, who was inside when it burned and who caused it to burn - and of course, why. It's a gripping, powerful story across three generations and two timeframes, involving the relationships between children and their parents in a variety of dramatic situations.
Charlize Theron is heartbreaking as the guilt-ridden, self-harming Sylvia, a young woman seeking escape from her demons on a daily basis with one night stands. Kim Basinger as Gina is tender, vulnerable and also guilt-ridden, unable to abandon her illicit affair with the bristle faced but tender hearted Nick (Joaquim de Almeida), sidelining her husband and children. Jennifer Lawrence is a standout as Mariana, the young girl who sets off a chain of events that changes all the lives of the characters. Tessa Ia is the pre-teen Maria, who plays a crucial role in the film's emotional resolution as she becomes the healer of the deep wounds that her mother has inflicted on herself.
At first, even though gripping and intriguing, the story strands seem disjointed and at odds with one another, but Arriaga reins them in, draws them together and reveals the pieces of the puzzle with clarity and power. The less you know about the plot details the better; it's a seductive film that tightens its grip on our hearts and minds as it unfolds.
A melancholy but also profoundly uplifting film by the talented Guillermo Arriaga, multi award winning writer of such movie greats as Amores Perros (Love's a Bitch), 21 Grams, and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Storytelling is an artform and Arriaga is a master.
First published in the Sun Herald
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BURNING PLAIN, THE (M)
CAST: Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger, John Corbett, Jennifer Lawrence, José María Yazpik, Joaquim de Almeida, Danny Pino, Tessa Ia,
PRODUCER: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes
DIRECTOR: Guillermo Arriaga
SCRIPT: Guillermo Arriaga
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Elswitt, John Toll
EDITOR: Craig Wood
MUSIC: Hans Zimmer, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dan Leigh
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 22, 2010