Starring: Shohreh Aghdashloo, Mozhan Marno, James Caviezel
Directed by: Cyrus Nowrasteh (debut)
Written by: Cyrus Nowrasteh (debut), Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh (“Under Pressure”)

It’s rare to see a film that has the power to evoke anger and do it in a way that binds you intuitively to its characters. Emotionally speaking, a filmmaker has to hit a pretty raw nerve to convince viewers that what they are seeing isn’t just a movie.

Director Cyrus Nowrasteh does just that in the meaningful drama “The Stoning of Soraya M.” While the film is an incredibly difficult one to watch, even the faint of heart can’t deny the magnitude of the subject matter.

As timely of a film as any this year, “Stoning” tells the true story of Soraya (Mozhan Marno), a young Iranian mother of four who is accused by her husband of adultery, a crime punishable by death in Iran. While the film is set in 1986 after few years after the Iranian Revolution, the execution practices are still legal in modern-day Iran.

Soraya’s story is told by her outspoken aunt Zahra (Academy Award nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo) who was witness to everything that led to the violent death of her niece. She finds reason to tell this tale of injustice when Freidoune Sahebjam (James Caviezel), a French-Iranian journalist, becomes stranded in her village after his car breaks down. Zahra sees Freidoune as a possible way others can find out what has happened there only days before.

The story starts with Soraya’s husband Ali (Navid Negahban) telling his wife that he wants to divorce her so he can marry a 14-year-old girl. Worried about what will become of her and her children without the financial support of her husband, Soraya refuses his request.

It’s not, however, an answer Ali will accept. Turning to some of the corrupt men of the village, Ali and others scheme a plan against Soraya that will result in devastating consequences. Lies spread like a plague in the village and before director Nowrasteh allows viewers to take a breath, the horrific end that the title of the film has already disclosed hovers like a dark cloud.

Before arriving to this heartbreaking place, Soraya has become more that just a movie character. Nowrasteh makes a conscious decision to make the final scenes of “The Stoning of Soraya M.” so extremely brutal it will almost engrave the pain into your mind. While uncompromising, it is effective especially on the shoulders of both lead actresses who deliver amazing performances. This is a film that deserves to be seen.

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