Saturday 11 May 2024

Movie Review: The Burning Plain (2008)

Genre: Drama  
Director: Guillermo Arriaga  
Starring: Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger, Jennifer Lawrence  
Running Time: 107 minutes  

Synopsis: The story unfolds in a non-linear structure across several timelines. In New Mexico, Gina (Kim Basinger) and Nick (Joaquim de Almeida) embark on an affair, although they are both married and raising families. They die in a fire at their secluded RV love nest. Gina's daughter Mariana (Jennifer Lawrence) and Nick's son Santiago (J.D. Pardo) are unexpectedly drawn to each other by the tragedy. Years later, an accident prompts crop duster Carlos (José María Yazpik) to search for Sylvia (Charlize Theron), a high-end Oregon restaurant hostess stumbling through unsatisfying relationships.

What Works Well: Writer and director Guillermo Arriaga unfurls a lyrically intriguing, multi-generational drama about fortuitous love filling gaps caused by calamitous loss. The fragmented structure spans two environmentally opposing locations (the sun-drenched south and dreary northwest), underlining the universality of sorrow punctured by opportunities for joy. The scattered scenes elegantly self-assemble into a rational whole, with Kim Basinger, Charlize Theron, and Jennifer Lawrence delivering complex performances fueled by pain, disappointment, and the willingness to embrace risk - for better or worse.

What Does Not Work As Well: The non-existent investigation into the RV fire at the heart of the drama is a plot hole that grows in prominence.

Conclusion: Desires, resentments, and regrets also burn through the years.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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