In The Patience Stone, an allegorical tale set in an Islamic country similar to today's troubled Afghanistan, a young wife (a fantastic Golshifteh Farahani) is mostly sequestered in her home with her much older husband. He has been shot, and lies in a vegetative state.
For the first time in their loveless marriage, she can speak freely, and he will listen. So, in moments between escaping bombs and trying to forage supplies, she pours out her anger, unhappiness and deeply held secrets. Here, the powerless husband becomes a "patience stone," a mythical object that hears and absorbs all one's troubles, then breaks apart, freeing the teller from unhappiness.
Director Atiq Rahimi adapted the film from his own novel. For a story that relies heavily on monologues, it is beautifully shot and visually engaging. Vivid colors — a head scarf, a wall of flowers — add color to the drab, monochromatic milieu. Likewise, the woman's own vibrancy surfaces in spite of cultural strictures that suppress it.
The wife's recitations are broken up with social interactions that establish both the restrictions and perils that women face (encounters with the mullah, fears of rape by jihad fighters); throughout, sex and violence are intertwined to subjugate women.
Expectedly, Stone is a devastating portrait of the physical and emotional costs women in such cultures suffer. But it also reveals the covert methods by which these same women seek escape, regress and even agency.