The Stoning of Soraya M.

The Stoning of Soraya M.

In Theatres: 
Jun 26, 2009
Running Time: 
116 mins

The eyes of the world are centered on Iran these days, searching for truth amongst the myriad of stories, photos and rumors. This is a country on the brink of revolution, with democracy and human rights hanging in the balance. It’s a tenuous hour and, as timing would have it, the perfect moment for The Stoning of Soraya M.

It’s also a very bold move to release a film of this gravity and intensity in the thick of the summer blockbuster season. It’s essentially the anti-blockbuster, in all of the right ways. It’s based on a 1990 book of the same name, written by Freidoune Sahebjam, an Iranian journalist. He tells the sad tale of a woman from Kupayeh, Iran who was accused of adultery by her abusive husband. One thing leads to another and mob rule takes over: she is punished via death by stoning.

The case against Soraya is pure gossip and hearsay. And as presented in this film, it’s nothing but lies. The sheer injustice of it all should distress even the hardest of hearts. There’s something brutally unnerving about seeing small boys gathering rocks in their shirts and a wheelbarrow for the sole purpose of stoning a woman to death.

Jim Caviezel is the name that will probably get people into the theatre seats, but it’s Shohreh Aghdashloo and Mozhan Marnò who they’ll be talking about when they leave. This film belongs to them. It’s not that Caviezel isn’t good, just that his role is basically a framing device that allows Aghdashloo’s Zahra to tell the story of the stoning. Her passion and conviction, along with Marnò’s, brings this story to tragic life. You see the events through their eyes and it is heart-wrenchingly compelling. It’s been a while since a film has made me feel this way, but as I watched, I wished that there were some way that I could sidestep time and space and put myself into the events of 1986 to somehow offer my voice as well in defense of Soraya.

I can’t do it then, so I’ll do what I can now to try to prevent situations like this in the future. I don’t usually use my “platform” as a writer and film reviewer to further an agenda around a movie, but this story demands action. It needs to be heard. So please, go see it. It opens in limited release this Friday around the country, with expanding dates in the following weeks. Sure, the summer is normally the time for turning off our brains and checking out the latest string of explosions set to a throbbing soundtrack. But these are important days and this is an important, albeit small, film. See it and then tell your friends about the story of Soraya.

Jeremy Hunt
Review by Jeremy Hunt
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