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</script></div>{/googleAds}Having written the screenplay for 21 Grams and Babel, Mexican screen writer Guillermo Arriaga pens a similar tale but this time directs his own script. With Oscar nominations (including one win) for his previous two scripts, Arriaga's screenplay here is consistent with structure and build up as with his earlier two. As if establishing an unmistakable water mark in script writing, The Burning Plain also has its fair share of tragedy, cultural and ethnic barriers with themes of redemption and forgiveness inter-woven into the very fabric of its multi dimensional plot line. Once again, his narrative adopts a non-linear approach and at first appears incoherent and detached with several sub-plots. But this is where Arriaga intentionally throws you off course to masterfully create a picture in your mind's eye, as if you were looking at an image through shards of a shattered mirror. With Babel, the plot is continuous but occurs in real time over various geographical locations. Here, his foundation is slightly altered whereby a curious yet deeply suppressed emotional fable is fragmented by time, by three seemingly unrelated women in different stages of their lives.

The Burning PLainIn another outstanding performance, Charlize Theron plays the role of a woman with some serious personal issues. Going by the alias Sylvia, her leading role here is about a troubled woman with a mysterious past with an even darker secret. As the proprietor of a successful restaurant, her personal life is in shambles. Although the object of desire amongst men in her professional life, she is still lonely, depressed and at times, suicidal.

In what seems like an unrelated time shift going back more than a decade, Gina (Kim Basinger) is a house wife and mother of four in New Mexico. While her trucker husband is busy earning the bacon on the interstate, Gina's physical and emotional needs are met through an extra-marital affair with Nick Martinez, a Mexican local she rendezvous with every afternoon. Even as she tries to end the affair in the interests of her family, her daughter Mariana willfully discovers her mother's dirty secret.

When Mariana (Jennifer Lawrence) befriends Santiago (JD Pardo), their friendship blossoms into a relationship of their own; but not before discovering that his father may be having an affair with her mother. Trailing behind her mother one afternoon, Mariana's suspicions are confirmed when her mother secretly drives to Nick's trailer in an isolated location. With her mother and Nick passionately in bed, Mariana decides to teach her mother a lesson in an attempt to stop the affair. Setting fire to the trailer's gas pipeline, her calculations are severely awry, resulting in a mental trauma she would bear for life. Just when she starts to realize the gravity of her actions, she must come to terms with another startling dilemma; the fate of the life pulsating in her womb.

For the sake of this review, I have chronicled the lives of the three main characters as it would start to appear after the second half. However, from Arriaga's perspective, you will note that events are not in chronological order. The plot is panned back and forth with no indication of flashbacks or forwards. Although this may seem confusing in the beginning, the reward in the end is the same as patiently placing together pieces of a frustrating puzzle. Additionally, the undertone is mellow and slow paced but the plot never looses focus and always maintains a firm grip on your curiosity. Also look out for chromatic changes in color saturation, indicating time shifts three plots into one.

The outcome is a brilliant piece of melodrama establishing Arriaga's directional debut as a force to reckoned with. Direction and plot aside, acting is just stellar with powerful portrayals from Oscar winning Theron and Basinger. Considering this is her first major cinematic role, Lawrence is well cast and forms a strong support between Theron and Basinger. Also worth mentioning is JD Pardo and Tessa La, fairly unknown in Tinsel town but making their mark as budding actors all the same.

Depending on how you look at it, this is easily a well crafted piece of contemporary art. Or poignant storytelling. Or a dynamically emotional tale of absolution. Or a way of showing how time heals all wounds. Or simply, all of the above.