A love triangle cracks when the woman vanishes.
“A meditative two-and-a-half-hour art film might not sound like a plausible candidate for the year’s best thriller, but Burning is exactly that,” said David Sims in TheAtlantic.com. Set in South Korea and based on a Haruki Murakami story, this shape-shifting drama follows a listless aspiring writer who falls in love with a beautiful former classmate only to see her depart on a trip and return with a wealthy businessman on her arm. Steven Yeun of TV’s The Walking Dead emerges as a true movie star in the interloper role: His Ben is a “frighteningly dispassionate” sophisticate who “gives the audience very little and yet has it hanging on to his every word.” He’s untrustworthy even before he reveals to his romantic rival that he makes a hobby of burning down abandoned greenhouses for the thrill of it, said Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times. When Haemi, the woman in the movie’s love triangle, goes missing, Burning “morphs with masterly patience” into a mystery thriller. But its real pleasures lie in “the subtle microcurrents of class rage and youthful despair that build in scene after scene.” The slow climb to the climax is marked by extended silences, said Glen Weldon in NPR.org. But those silences “lend this film its cold, implacable force.”