Golshifteh Farahani as the Woman
Photo by Benoît Peverelli, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
THE PATIENCE STONE
2013, 102 minutes
Rated R for sexual content, language, and some violence
Review by Joshua Handler
Sony Pictures Classics is a studio that distributes the best Middle Eastern dramas. 2011’s Oscar-winner, A Separation and 2010’s Oscar-nominee Incendies (Middle Eastern-set, but Canadian produced) are two of the greatest films of all time, 2008 and 2010’s Lebanon War films, Waltz With Bashir and Lebanon, respectively, are unique and original pieces of filmmaking, and this year’s Fill the Void is a powerful film. Why they ever decided to pick up Atiq Rahimi’s Afghan film The Patience Stone is mind-blowing. It is one of the worst movies that I’ve seen all year. Nothing goes right for it, save for Golshifteh Farahani’s (2012’s Chicken With Plums, one of that year’s best) strong central performance, and even that isn’t enough to save this inept film.
The film tells the story of an unnamed woman Farahani) who cares for her unconscious husband who was hit in the back of the neck with a bullet and tells him all of the secrets she could never tell him when he was conscious. In the midst of all of this, she begins an affair with a young soldier.
The main problem with The Patience Stone is that its story leaves little room for nuance and subtlety because the main story is a woman telling her husband her secrets. When most of the movie is the woman telling her secrets (which aren’t shocking, interesting, or even very provocative in the first place), there’s little room for mystery or intrigue. She simply tells her secrets to her husband and that’s that. This makes for uninteresting storytelling.
If a movie is this uninteresting, I would at least hope for a good ending to make up for making me sit through the first 90 minutes. I didn’t even get a good ending. The climax is melodramatic and quite predictable, and four days later, I don’t even remember the ending. When the credits rolled, I wanted to applaud. That was the best part of the movie.
Farahani and some nice cinematography are the only good things about this film. Farahani gives this performance her all. It is obvious that she believes in this movie. She gives it the little nuance it has. This is a quiet performance that needs a good actress and Farahani rises to the occasion.
Overall, The Patience Stone is a snooze of a movie that I predict will come and go without making any form of a mark. Because it is a foreign film with limited audience appeal, I truly hope it does well, but let’s face it, the chances of that are slim. I wouldn’t pay a high ticket price to see this and I think many others will feel the same, though I hope to be proven wrong. Foreign films need all of the box office support they can get.