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'The Patience Stone' a study in suffering

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 6:45 p.m.

Actress Golshifteh Farahani's character in “The Patience Stone” never gets a name; she's listed in the credits as simply “the woman.” She tends to her older husband's comatose body in their ravaged home in Afghanistan, keeping him alive in spite of the bullet wound in his neck.

She feeds him sugar water through a tube. She cleans him, dipping a rag into a bowl, its surface rattled by nearby bomb blasts. She takes care of her daughters. She reads from the Quran. She cries and prays.

But mostly, she talks. “The Patience Stone” largely functions as a one-woman play, with Farahani's character soliloquizing over her husband's body. The one-sided dialogue begins tentatively. “You're the one wounded,” she tells him, “and I'm the one suffering.”

Eventually, she takes advantage of her war-hero-husband's unresponsive state to spill her heart, a therapeutic act. She's not the soldier, but she's also lived her life, in a way, staring down the barrel of a gun. She was married young to the celebrated soldier — married, rather, in a grotesque bit of symbolism, to his dagger in the soldier's absence — and ever since has been balanced on that knife's edge to keep from falling out of her husband's favor and society's.

Ultimately, it's Farahani's striking and assured performance that stops the film just shy of being overbearingly allegorical, rooting the film instead in the flesh and blood of a real woman's spiritual and sexual awakening.

Barbara VanDenburgh writes for the Arizona Republic.

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