Box art for The Burning Plain

The Burning Plain

  • Rated R

independent, special interest

A romantic mystery about a woman on the edge who takes an emotional journey back to the defining moment of her life.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 17
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
2 out of 5
4 out of 5
Positive messages
2 out of 5
Positive role models
0 out of 5
4 out of 5
3 out of 5

Poignant story of infidelity, loss, remorse; not for kids.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie focuses on an adulterous relationship and the devastation it causes to its many victims. There are several scenes of frank sexuality, including passionate foreplay, suggested intercourse, and nudity (bare female breasts, buttocks, backs, and a fully nude woman seen from a distance). A violent explosion/fire that kills two adults is shown several times, though without any gruesome shots of the people inside. A young woman is seen mutilating her leg ("cutting") in a gesture of self-loathing, and two teens use a cigarette lighter to scar themselves. There's also plenty of strong language (including "f--k," "s--t," "bastard," "slut," etc.), smoking throughout, and occasional drinking.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about the fact that guilt is a recurring theme of the movie. Which characters feel guilty? How do the characters reveal their guilt? Are any of the characters strong role models?
  • How many lives were affected by the behavior of two people who fell in love and had an affair? Can you think of other instances in which many people suffer because of the actions of a few? What can we do to be aware of this fact when we make important life choices?
  • The filmmaker uses a nonlinear storytelling method, with repeated shifts of time and place. What do you think the goal behind that decision is? What does this technique require of the viewer?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 29
    see all The Burning Plain reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Rotten: In The Burning Plain we follow three-or maybe four-different stories that ultimately converge in ways that are both utterly predictable and completely preposterous.

- A.O. Scott, At the Movies, Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rotten: The elliptical structure of the narrative can't cover up its overheated, half-baked banality.

- A.O. Scott, New York Times, Friday, September 18, 2009

Rotten: The Burning Plain marks Arriaga's behind-the-camera debut, and his obviousness is staggering.

- Aaron Hillis, Village Voice, Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Audience Reviews

3 stars

The Burning Plain, a romantic mystery about a woman on the edge who takes an emotional journey back to the defining moment of her life. Written and directed by Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel). It is a heart breaking, touching movie. It follows the formula of having a main story with various sub-stories that in the end their paths are crossed. The rhythm is a little slow, it continuously changes from story to story making it hard to follow and a little boring at some moments. The cast is good. Charliza Theron, Kim Basinger John Corbett, Robin Tunney, Jose Maria Yazpik, everyone delivering very convincing performances although some of them are a little overacted aswell. In conclusion, If you've seen Babel or 21 Grams or Amores Perros, all of them written by Ariaga, then you know what to expect with The Burning Plain

- barrys, Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2 stars

The only reason to watch this film is the remarkable performance by Jennifer Lawrence, who recently garnered a Golden Globe nomination for another film. She captures a perfect balance between the impetuousness of youth and the world-weary bitterness of a daughter forced to grow up too soon, and late in the film she has an uninhibited crying scene that makes Viola Davis's part in Doubt look like it's as guarded as Russell Crowe. As far as the story is concerned, I think of Kurt Vonnegut's "rules" for writing. He effectively said, "Don't hide anything from the audience. Fuck suspense." He also said, "Flannery O'Connor violates all of these rules and still writes effective fiction." Hi ho. Writer/director Guillermo Arriaga would have done well to remember Vonnegut's "rules" because for much of the movie, we feel like the episodic scenes we're presented with are too disconnected in theme and substance to amount to anything interesting. It turns out that the stories are connected, but by the time we find this out, we've stopped caring. Overall, catch a rising star in Lawrence but to hell with the rest of the film.

- hunterjt13, Tuesday, December 14, 2010

4 stars

This was really good. Charlize Theron is such a great actress. It took me a little while to figure out who was who in this movie, cuz they were jumping around quite a bit from present to past and back. It all came together quite nicely, though, and made for one heck of a story with a really nice ending.

- itsjustme2004, Thursday, October 14, 2010