Based on a 1994 nonfiction work by French-Iranian journalist-novelist Freidoune Sahebjam, Stoning is a tale told to a French journalist ( Jim Caviezel) who just happens to break down in a rural Iranian village on his way to the border. The townsfolk are tentative, suspicious. The mayor and the local imam are wariest of all. The last thing they want is for the journalist to meet the defiant, outraged Zahra, played with a tearful zeal by Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog). She corners the reporter and tells him (in Persian, with English subtitles) of what "these devils" have done. "They cannot get away with it."
Aghdashloo is a fury as the aunt who still speaks her mind in a nation where "women now have no voices." Zahra tries to warn Soraya, to reason with or shame her accusers. Navid Negahban plays the husband in shades of mustache-twirling evil.
The acting is better than the writing, which paints many characters in simplistic, hateful strokes. But co-writer/director Cyrus Nowrasteh, who wrote the controversial TV movie The Path to 9/11, constructs a climax that is unblinking, brutal and moving.
The film's credits have enough ThePassion of the Christ and American Carol ties to make one question the filmmakers' motives. But The Stoning of Soraya M. is enough to give anyone pause before excusing any behavior from a part of the world that seems, at times, to relish the Dark Ages.
See for yourselfThe Stoning of Soraya M.
Cast: Shohreh Aghdashloo, Jim Caviezel, Mozhan Marno, Navid Negahban.
Director: Cyrus Nowrasteh.
Running time: 1 hour, 56 minutes.
Industry rating: R, for a disturbing sequence of cruel and brutal violence, and brief strong language.