For those ambivalent about whether stoning women to death is a cruel punishment or not, here’s The Stoning Of Soraya M., a dutifully plodding, if watchable, dramatization of a real, particularly appalling application of sharia law in small-town Iran. Soraya (Mozhan Marnò) refuses to divorce abusive husband Ali (Navid Negahban), because he won’t leave her enough money to feed her children, so he teams up with their village’s mullah to start a rumor that she’s committing adultery, punishable by death. Events take their inevitable course, with Soraya’s BFF (played by Shohreh Aghdashloo) narrating, and Soraya gets to live out the title in a bloody and prolonged sequence reminiscent of The Passion of the Christ—which is appropriate, since Jim Caviezel pops up here, speaking creditable Farsi as the journalist who blows the whole thing up. Director Cyrus Nowrasteh gives the proceedings more flair than is usual for the explicitly didactic: If his ideas (the camera rocketing on the stones thrown at Soroya, as if they were Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves‘ arrows all over again) are bad, at least he’s trying. But this is basically self-congratulatory fare for people who feel more “politically conscious” when reminded that women in the Islamic world can have it rough. Right now, you’re better off just watching the news.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 24, 2009