R (sexual content, violence, strong language); 98 min.
A walk onto the street, to get fruit and medicine, becomes a frantic run for survival for the unnamed woman played by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani in The Patience Stone. Suddenly, there is an explosion. A truck full of militia firing automatic weapons tears around the corner, dust and damage everywhere.
The woman lives in a small house behind a walled courtyard, where she has two young daughters and a husband. He is lying comatose, a bullet in his neck, a tube with serum going into his mouth. The man (Hamid Javdan) is much older. She was 17 when she married him or married a photograph and a dagger representing his presence. He was away.
And now, in this quietly fierce condemnation of fundamentalist Muslim societys treatment of women, she begins to speak truths she dared not utter when he was awake. The Patience Stone, adapted from the Atiq Rahimi novel and directed by the author aided in no small measure by Thierry Arbogasts remarkable cinematography finds the woman telling her husband about the men who fathered her daughters, because he was impotent. She talks of her longings, her rage. After weeks of these confessions, something stirs, breaks free. She meets a soldier (Massi Mrowat), and they make love.
In Persian mythology, the patience stone is a magical talisman that absorbs the worries and woe of those who confide in it. For the woman, her husband becomes that stone. Although the country goes unnamed in this powerful, parable-like film, it is clearly Afghanistan, torn apart by war, a culture dominated by men, by mullahs.
But what comes across more than anything is the resilience of women. Beneath the hijabs and the burkas that conceal them, a spirit burns fast and strong.
In Persian with English subtitles.
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Steven Rea, The Philadelphia Inquirer