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"The Stoning of Soraya M."

Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh.
Written by Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh and Cyrus Nowrasteh.  Based on the book by Freidoune Sahebjam.
Starring Shohreh Aghdashloo, Mozhan MarnÚ and Jim Caviezel.
Release Year:  2009
Review Date:  7/4/09

Folks--

As powerful and as dramatic as a film's last 20 minutes can be, I walked out of the theater after the new drama "The Stoning of Soraya M." thinking just one thing--

Drowning would suck...but, getting stoned to death is a hundred times worse.

Based on the true story of a French journalist, "The Stoning of Soraya M." tells the tale of Soraya (Mozhan MarnÚ), a mother of four in a village in Iran who is wrongly accused of adultery by her cheating husband Ali (Navid Negahban) and sentenced to death in her village by stoning.

That is the whole story.  But, the retelling of this tale is incredible.  Here's how incredible--even at a 2 PM showing on a Saturday afternoon with subtitles, I was wide awake for the entire two-hour affair, and the film's second half is riveting.  The performance by MarnÚ is obviously powerful and tragic, but the bit players here--the child actors playing Soraya's four children, a car mechanic (Parviz Sayyad) who has a key role in Soraya's conviction, Negahban, even the other veiled women of Soraya's village--are also superb.

But, the title of the film says it all--this is about two things.  First, the completely devoid presence of women's rights in this village (in 1986!!) is still shocking even as you know what it means for a woman to prove her innocence in Iran then and now.  Soraya's sentence comes down from a) the mayor of the village, b) his spiritual second-in-command, and c) Soraya's husband.  Lawyers?  Hell, no!!  Second, getting stoned absolutely ranks with Middle Ages-style treatment.  We're talking march the woman out to a hole in the ground, bury her half-way so that she can't move while getting hammered with rocks, and then let her bleed and rot in the ground for everyone to see.  Yikes doesn't even scratch the surface, but director Cyrus Nowrasteh doesn't back down from this brutal sequence...we're talking slo-mo shots of kids gathering rocks, Soraya's bloody stoning bit, the ravenous mob smiling all the way to Soraya's death.

Whoa, that last quarter of the film is shocking stuff.  But, there's a film with heart and real meat behind it, backed by very strong performances.  Not for everyone, but certainly an excellent film.

Rating:  Opening Weekend

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 07/12/09