Atiq Rahimi’s adaptation of his novel of the same name burns with a slow fuse. If you are looking for CGI and car chases then look elsewhere, but this film had me gripped throughout.
The central performance of Golshifteh Farahani is spellbinding, a remarkable feat given that most of the time she is effectively delivering a monologue. Her husband is a war hero who is now in a coma. She has stayed behind to care for him while virtually all of her friends and relatives have fled the front line.
We never discover which war he fought in or indeed for whom. When soldiers come to your house in this anonymous country the likely consequences are robbery and murder. There is no sense of that being to do with ‘sides’ either – even the husband’s injury was caused by an argument with one of his own men.
But the war and its consequences are just one aspect of life for women here. Sterile wives are abandoned, 12-year-old daughters are sold to pay off debts and the best way to avoid being raped is to pretend you are a prostitute.
Farahani’s character (we never learn her name – the people are anonymous here as well as the country and its war) gradually tells her comatose husband all her secrets, secrets she could never have shared when he was awake. We slowly learn about her life and what it is like to be a daughter, a wife and mother, a daughter-in-law, in this land, and in all the other lands that it could have been.
Just telling her story acts as a catharsis for her, it empowers her somehow, but she also finds ways of being ‘free’ and taking control of her own life – though they are perverse indeed and there is certainly no Hollywood style happy ending.
I was surprised to learn that Golshifteh Farahani made this film before My Sweet Pepper Land, which some readers may have seen. I wanted to like that film more than I did but this is a much weightier offering with a truly memorable central performance.
The Patience Stone is currently showing at selected cinemas and is also available on DVD. It is in Farsi with English subtitles.