The Burning Plain (2008)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama, Romance  |  5 November 2009 (Argentina)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 14,309 users   Metascore: 45/100
Reviews: 56 user | 125 critic | 18 from

A drama with a two-tiered storyline concerning a mother and daughter who try to form a bond after the young woman's difficult childhood.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Young Man
Cristobal (as Diego Torres)
José Gallardo Jr. ...
Rosalia De Aragon ...
Aunt Rebecca (as Rosalia de Aragon)


The Burning Plain follows the story of several different people separated by time and space -- Sylvia, a woman in Oregon who must undertake an emotional odyssey to rid herself of her past; Mariana and Santiago, two teenagers trying to piece together the shattered lives of their parents in a New Mexico border town; Maria, a little girl who goes on a border-crossing voyage to help her parents find redemption, forgiveness, and love; and Gina and Nick, a couple who must deal with an intense and clandestine affair... because they are both married. Written by sundance7490 from Scottsdale, Arizona

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Love heals. Love absolves. Love burns.


Crime | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexuality, nudity and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

5 November 2009 (Argentina)  »

Also Known As:

Ravnica u plamenu  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$58,749 (USA) (18 September 2009)


$200,399 (USA) (20 November 2009)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The title can be translated to Spanish as "El Llano en Llamas", the title of Juan Rulfo's short story collection, one of Mexico's most famous. See more »


Sylvia lives in Portland, but works at a restaurant on the ocean - two hours away. See more »


Sylvia: What grade are you in?
Maria: 9th.
Sylvia: Do you have a boyfriend?
Maria: Nope. Do you?
See more »


Featured in Siskel & Ebert: Episode dated 5 September 2009 (2009) See more »


Falling Star
Written by Ali Dee (as Ali Theodore), Henry Hey, Alana Da Fonseca (as Alana da Fonseca),
Zach Danziger (as Zach Denziger)
Performed by E. Wilson
Courtesy of DeeTown Entertainment
See more »

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User Reviews

Human Redemption on a Smaller Plain in Arriaga's Tentative Directorial Debut
23 August 2009 | by (San Francisco, CA, USA) – See all my reviews

Screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga's big-screen collaborations with director Alejandro González Iñárritu have produced a trio of highly accomplished films - "Amores Perros", "21 Grams", and "Babel" – that juxtaposed several story lines, all tied together by characters who were damaged souls in search of redemption and connection with one another. Although the two had a very public falling-out, Arriaga still appears to be strongly influenced by his former partner's jumbled film-making style as he takes over the director's chair with this 2009 drama. The chief problem, however, is that Arriaga doesn't really show Iñárritu's passion and audacity as he attempts to pull off the considerable demands of a non-linear narrative with conviction. Moreover, Arriaga the screenwriter lets down Arriaga the director with a script that ultimately feels too predictable and contrived despite strong performances from the cast.

There looks to be four separate stories at the outset, which eventually transitions into two. The first involves Sylvia, the manager of an upscale, seaside restaurant in Portland, an extremely pained woman who prefers casual sex followed by self-inflicted punishment. She is obviously anguished over something that motivates her erratic behavior. The second thread takes place in New Mexico near the Mexican border where Gina, an unhappily married mother of four, is carrying on an affair with a local man named Nick, also married with children. The complication here is that her daughter Mariana finds out about the affair and embarks on a relationship with Nick's son Santiago. Meanwhile, in Mexico, a crop-duster plane crash-lands on an open field, as his twelve-year-old daughter Maria watches in horror.

Arriaga's fractured approach works for a little while albeit in an emotionally draining, humorless way. However, when the moment of revelation arrives (and much too early), the plot unravels into a Lifetime TV-movie level of sanctimony obscured by the fiery explosion that gives the movie its name. Proving yet again that a beautiful woman can convincingly expose the torment of a soul under fire, Charlize Theron successfully makes the nihilistic Sylvia an ultimately sympathetic figure. Kim Basinger, looking entirely too stunning and wrinkle-free at 55 to be a K-Mart-shopping housewife, manages to get to the heart of a guilt-ridden woman, even as she shows Gina going through the predictable machinations of her illicit actions.

The stand-out performance, however, comes from Jennifer Lawrence, a Jewel-look-alike, as the troubled teen Mariana, the dramatic pivot for the whole movie. Tessa Ia makes a strong impression as the pensive Maria, while the men barely make a ripple – John Corbett as a smitten sous-chef in Sylvia's restaurant, Joaquim de Almeida as the passionate Nick, José María Yazpik as the go-between Carlos, and Danny Pino as the pilot. The one exception is J.D. Pardo who plays Santiago as the impetuous Romeo to Lawrence's Juliet. Robin Tunney shows up in a smallish role as Sylvia's one true friend. Robert Elswit and John Toll share cinematography responsibilities here, and they do an excellent job capturing all the locales. At the end of the movie, I couldn't help thinking that Arriaga's yin was fundamentally missing Iñárritu's yang.

9 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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