Saturday, July 4, 2009


And the movie is about as subtle as the title would suggest. Men in a small Iranian village plot against a poor woman to frame her for adultery so that her asshole husband can be rid of her and marry a 14 year old girl from town. This is all told after-the-fact by Soraya's aunt Zahra (Shoreh Aghdashloo), to passing French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam (played by Jim Caviezel. The movie is based on a real story, which was first written up by the real Freidoune Sahebjam).

As I implied, the movie is not subtle. I would even call it ham-fisted at times, but for the fact that that's not halal. But despite that, there were two things that really impressed me. First, in an industry that is notorious for creating good roles for men but nothing for women, it's notable that the best roles in the movie were the two main female leads (Shoreh Aghdashloo as Zahra, and Mozhan Marnò as the titular Soraya). And I don't just mean they're the only sympathetic characters, I mean the they're fully realized people while the men are almost cartoonish villains or at best willing "dupes." And both actresses are fully up to the task--both Academy Award nominee Aghdashloo (BTW, there's no way she should've lost to Renee Zellweger. I'm okaywith her not winning, but Renee Zellweger pisses me off) and relative newcomer
Mozhan Marnò (full disclosure, I've never met Mozhan Marnò but I recently learned that she's a friend of a friend. I like to think I would've praised her work anyway).

The other remarkable thing about this movie was the actual stoning scene. All the ham-fistedness in the rest of the movie can be totally forgiven for this, one of the most excruciating prolonged gut-punches ever put on screen. I can't describe it in any words other than they make the audience feel every stone that's thrown, and it's brutal, painful, and brilliant.

I want to end my review with that, but the movie ended with something that really bothered me. It shows
Freidoune Sahebjam getting away with the tape of Zahra's testimony, and then in closing text reveals that this became a book that was an international bestseller for him. But absolutely nothing about what happened to everyone else. Do the asshole men in the town get their comeuppance? I don't know. Does Zahra avoid punishment? I don't know. It's no stretch to say Freidoune is the least important character in the movie, so why do we only get his resolution? WTF!?

Anyway, THE STONING OF SORAYA M, is a so-so movie, with great actresses (and great roles for them), and one powerful scene that transcends all the other flaws. And Mozhan Marnò is a good actress who I'd like to see in more movies.

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