In a nameless country, and with nameless characters, writer and director Atiq Rahimi weaves a hypnotizing tale about the cultural and sociological fall of a country, as seen through the life of one of its women; the mesmerizing Golshifteh Farahani. This film will not blow you away, it will not amaze you, or give you any sort of immediate satisfaction. However, give it a couple of days and it will creep its way into your heart and soul, expanding on every aspect of delayed gratification.
In a war-torn middle-eastern country, a young woman (Farahani) looks after her comatose husband, along with her two daughters, all cramped together in their old filthy house in a poor neighborhood that is in fact the frontline of the ongoing war. As the conditions harden, the woman finds herself talking to her unhearing husband, confessing her deepest secrets, and recounting her life story and how she came to marry him for ten years without him once listening to what she had to say. The longer she stays with the unconscious husband, the more she talks, and the more she talks, the more she reveals about the melancholic and often shocking mode of life imposed on the women of this country. It doesn’t really matter which oppressive middle-eastern country is depicted in The Patience Stone; as they all seem to obey the same pattern.
The beautiful Golshifteh Farahani pulls her weight in a bewitching performance that is indisputably the best of her career. She puts her heart into her character, and carries out her performance with such skill and mastery, where every blink of an eye conveys multiple layers of emotion. With the addition of the attentive cinematography of Thierry Arbogast, and the dexterous script of Rahimi and Jean-Claude Carrière , The Patience stone captures the spirit of Farahani’s performance like no other, and ultimately that of human emotion itself.
I read some reviews arguing that the film is rather slow or even boring. I remember when I first watched this gem I felt absolutely compelled to re-watch it again immediately. It was spectacularly abrim with emotions I had to watch it again to make sure I did not miss any of its facets. However, I do believe that a certain degree of knowledge of the dire conditions and toxic customs of middle-eastern countries similar to the one represented by Rahimi is crucial to recognize the expertly nuanced performance of Farahani, otherwise subtle emotions such as her fear of disobeying her unconscious husband, or her mixed feelings towards religion might go unnoticed.
The Patience Stone is a heartbroken love letter from Rahimi to his homeland Afghanistan. His portrayal of the chaos and turmoil is highly accurate yet remains as elegant as can be. Even scenes of violence and assault are depicted with such grace that maintains the privacy and humanity of his characters. He expertly embodies the way war, and fanaticism affect an entire country through the solemn tale of one of its women. This film is a beauty that might prove baffling to some, but those who can truly see its essence will ultimately grow sentimental about it, I am sure of it.