The Stoning of Soraya M. Review

Published 6 years ago by

Short version: The Stoning of Soraya M. is an important film that needs to be watched – especially considering the current world political climate.

stoning of soraya m reviews The Stoning of Soraya M. Review
Screen Rant reviews The Stoning of Soraya M.

The Stoning of Soraya M. is based on a true story and a book by Iranian-French journalist Freidoune Sahebjam. It is about the stoning death (murder, more accurately) of a 35 year old woman in a small village in Iran during the rule of Khomeini in 1986.

James Caviezel plays Freidoune, an Iranian expatriate visiting Iran on assignment when he runs into Zahra (played with usual intensity by Shohreh Aghdashloo), Soraya’s aunt, who convinces him to visit her to listen to her story. He is reluctant at first (seemingly sharing some native attitudes about womens’ lack of worthiness), but Zahra’s forthrightness and intensity convince him to give her a chance. He turns on his tape recorder and she begins to tell her tale.

Soraya (Shohreh Aghdashloo) has two boys and two younger girls and is financially trapped in a marriage to her prison guard husband Ali (Navid Negahban). Ali wants a divorce so he can marry a 14 year old girl, but does not want to commit to the financial support of Soraya and their daughters. Soraya would not be able to support and feed her daughters with just the house and land he wants to leave her (he wants to take the boys with him).

Ali beats Soraya, who has been rejecting him due to his treatment of her and his dalliances with prostitutes, but being a “man” is adamant that he will not let her have her way in an equitable divorce agreement. The film takes place just a few years after the Shah was overthrown, and there are people who were loyal to the Shah and others who are loyal to religious leader Khomeini. Ali knows that the town Mullah (religious leader) was a Shah loyalist and in prison after the overthrow – so he threatens him to find a way to get Soraya to agree to a divorce on his terms.

There is also the mayor, Ebrahim (David Diaan) – he was a Shah supporter but is doing the best he can to get by in the current regime. He seems essentially fair – but weak.

One thing leads to another and a conspiracy is formed to accuse and convict Soraya of adultery – a crime punishable by public stoning to death.

stoning soraya m The Stoning of Soraya M. Review

Soraya being led to her execution

Just based on the title, you know the ending is inevitable – and the further I got into the film the more my heart was in my throat anticipating that ending. Soraya is portrayed as an honorable woman, just trying to do what she needs to in order to support her children. But two false witnesses are assembled (all that is required to accuse a woman of adultery and demand a hearing) and of course as a woman she has to prove her innocence instead of the men having to prove her guilt.

Zahra remembers life before head to toe burkas and stands up to the men in power in town (and Soraya’s husband). There are no marks against her since her husband died and I guess widows are at least treated with a bit of respect – but she is ineffective in convincing anyone of anything (she is still just a woman after all). In the end people are threatened, a kangaroo court is formed, and Ali gets his way. There is nothing to be done and Soraya resigns herself to her fate, entrusting her daughters to Zahra.

Eventually the title event of the film arrives – the closer we get to it, the slower the film seems to move… making it seem right around the corner but taking its time arriving. It is a brutal scene and not over quickly. Yes, it’s very hard to watch (and some people, my wife included, may not be able to watch the entire scene) – but it’s necessary if you really want to comprehend the heinous injustice of the situation, which is still taking place all over the Middle East today.

Of course it’s not indicative of all men in Middle Eastern countries, but it does show a prevalant attitude that exists in the minds of much of the leadership in the area – and still goes on today despite denials from those same governments.

It’s not an easy film to watch, but you really should see The Stoning of Soraya M.

Our Rating:

5 out of 5

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  1. Sounds like a well written powerful film but I’m going to pass for now. I know all too well what goes on over there…

    Cool choice for a film review though Vic. 5 stars on that!

  2. I saw a preview for this a while ago, it looked interesting, but seems like such a downer, not sure if I want to see it, even if it’s really good like you say it is…

    I’ll probably rent it one day based on your recommendation though…

  3. Big chance i’m going to see this !

  4. Sounds a tough one but worth watching.
    Always wary of the term ‘based on a true story’ but unfortunately sounds very believable.

  5. Thanks for reviewing this / bringing attention to it — I had never heard of it. Is it going to be in wide release, I wonder?

  6. Thank you Vic!

  7. How tragic that our current government sticks it’s head in the sand while tens of thousands endanger themselves over there to try and change things. Oh i shouldn’t have said that, we don’t want to offend anyone.

  8. I’ll watch it. It’s hard to watch films like this, but it has to be done to bring this to the masses.

    Watch Bandit Queen too. Made me angry and sad too.

    Lord Garth, no offense taken because you have spoken the truth.

  9. Yawn at Lord Garth. Hey a movie about the middle east let me take a shot at the american government despite it not being at all what the film is about.

    I think you overrated the flim just a bit vic. Not saying it was bad, but certainly not deserving of 5 stars. I enjoyed it… Or as much as one can enjoy this film considering what it’s about. However, I don’t think it deserves 5 stars. Yes the woman wasn’t the bad guy we get it, but the film beats you over the head with it and instead of just showing the story it seems to only focus on her struggles and makes her a hero. She isn’t a bad guy, but neither is this woman a hero just a tragic story and they over played their hand of who she is. The story is obvious who the bad guys are, but there really is no hero in it there is no person that stands out as some one doing something amazing or brave. Yet they tried to push it forward as if thats what she was. Her story is tragic and sad, but not a heroic tale of any sort and had they showed it for what it truly was the film would be better.

  10. @Daniel F

    Certain movies get to me based on story and/or the message. I’ve seen other reviewers mention “beating people over the head” and to that I say “so what?” To me the message was just plain and simple. I haven’t read the book this was based on so I don’t know whether Zhara was really as brave as they portrayed her (I would guess not quite as much).


  11. Hey I’m sorry I know this is completely not about this, but I was wondering if you guys ever reviewed Slumdog Millionaire?

  12. I saw this film last night with my wife and two Iranian friends. Its purpose is to put you in the victims shoes, but to also ,while showing her stoning: to disect the stoning of an entire country’s sense of reason . It is the modern day equivalent of the “Spanish Inquisition”
    Is it really true that we live in some sort of eternal present?

  13. Having seen this film, I can vouch for everything in the above review. It’s a deep and powerful film that will move you. I highly, highly recommend it for anyone and everyone. It’s a definite must-see.

  14. Let me just tell you something… all those fools over there need to be stoned. Bomb that backwards area and let’s get on with it. Seriously people, they are still living in the stone age, no pun intended, and need to be exterminated. The world would benefit. The greatest good for the greatest number.

  15. I have not seen this movie yet, but the actor Navid Negahban would fit great in character Jafar from Aladdin.

  16. you are a bunch of liars. you know nothing about Iran and Iranian. you just lie