Character names aren’t known in The Patience Stone nor is the country identified. However, many perceive the country to be in some Middle East, such as Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan.
As The Patience Stone opens, the wife is a mess and there’s an open question of whether the family can remain intact. With two small daughters playing in the next room, she begs her husband to wake from his coma, take charge of her life once more and make things proper. Due to the ongoing sectarian conflict, the husband’s brothers fled and her prayers to Allah (God) remain unanswered. Bombs shake the house by night while armed men prowl the streets in daylight, hoping to kill in the name of God.
The Patience Stone portrays scenes of constant of debilitating chaos: bare floors, little food, no running water as the angel of death circles just outside their windows like a vulture in the desert. Technically, there’s no lock, just a latch. Parts of the wall are blown away. Hand-washed clothes line stretches across the dirt yard. A shaded wool blanket strung from the ceiling hides a closet and one scene depicts a long-legged spider dangling overhead while flies buzz in and out of her husband’s mouth. Almost daily, the wife looks through the broken and fractured windows of her own life, hoping in some unimaginable way, a miracle will happen.
The more time you spend in her world, the smaller ours feel.
In the midst of all this harsh reality, The Patience Stone demonstrates a woman redefining societal expectations. It’s about those who refuse to conform to the gender role they’re supposed to play without question and of one’s fight for political and financial autonomy. While the characters remind us many walk a fine line – smiling on the outside, dying on the inside – there is hope only when the wife begins her own journey of self-discovery. The price she pays for such self-discovery is the loss of her family and community. But she’s rewarded with liberation.
Emboldened by the husband’s inability to respond, the wife improvises an IV drip and quietly begins telling her unconscious husband the conscious truth of herself and their relationship — all the secrets she dared never to reveal. Symbolically, he becomes her “patience stone,” a stone which absorbs all the miseries and misfortunes until finally shattering and delivering her from pain.
Such blunt confessions would get her killed if her husband emerged from his comatose condition. And that’s the catch … he does awaken. So what’s the first thing he attempts after awakening? He tries to kill his wife.
Having traveled parts of the Mideast, even if such a woman transcends her circumstances, it’s impossible to forget how helpless most are. And sadly, this movie fails to mention many are just like her, whether home or abroad. We’re called to remember that in the shadow of a world moving forward, it’s people just like this who’ve been left behind. When traditional anchors of livelihood have been destroyed by years of sectarian violence, ignorance and corruption, people are pushed to the margins and life becomes mere existence while God remains as obscure as galaxies littering the nighttime sky.
Every triumph is not of the same kind. Sometimes it arrives early and sometimes it takes a long time. One must not expect everything would be done in the same manner and that everything finds success. In the end, the wife chose freedom instead of endless corruption and religious dogma.
I pray more women do the same.