I have enjoyed the work of Guillermo Arriage, including Babel and 21 Grams. However, Arriage uses the same technique with 'The Burning Plain, as he did in 'Babel,' which for me can be confusing, at times, and not a preferred methodology for most viewers. Here again, we are faced with current time, running parallel with a significant amount of back-story, and a multitude of characters that initially seem disconnected. It took me a while to realize what was going on. I should have had a clue, from Babel. Finally the stories began to converge---rather flawlessly, so it was well worth the patience required. In fact, in some respects, I think it was better constructed than Babel, in tying up loose ends.
Be warned, this (107 min) R-rated, romantic, mystery/drama, will not be for everyone. It is not action driven, aside from some self-mutilating behaviors, sensual scenes with nudity, and a trailer blowing up. It is not filled with gratuitous violence, awesome CGI, or other big-box-office, draw themes, although the filming is lovely. Instead, it is a slow paced, deep character study involving three wounded female leads, Theron being the primary protagonist. It is about an illicit love affair(Basinger) and the dark web surrounding omissions of truth---the escalating lies. It is about the irrevocable psychic damage that can be done, when youth is the witness to adults breaking the rules and threatening their security. It is about an ego destroyed and on the path of self destruction. It is about stopping cutting, just to feel alive, and opening up for love and forgiveness. It is about redemption.
I loved the psychological dynamics of this movie and thought they were well developed. Having personally worked with 'cutters' for many years, I felt Theron did justice to the self-destructive, emotionally sterile angst of those who must cut, to feel momentarily alive; how they are driven to match their internal scars with external ones. And, Basinger was so well suited to the role of the lonely, timid wife, struggling with an altered body image, who could easily be seen driven into the arms of another man, at whatever cost. The premise is not very original; these are issues that have, and do, happen every day, but, even so, they will evoke many thoughts and feelings within the sensitive viewer. In a word, it is 'powerful!'
This was a rental for me. I don't think I would like to own this movie. Seeing it once was painful enough, but I wouldn't have wanted to miss it. Without reservation, I recommend this film to all serious movie devotees, who enjoy deep, dark, psychologically oriented films, with stellar performances.