In an urban war zone in an unspecified Middle Eastern country, a Muslim woman (Golshifteh Farahani) dutifully cares for her domineering, much older husband (Hamid Djavadan), who lies comatose. He was shot in the neck defending mother's honor. The mullah said that after two weeks he would recover, but it's been longer -- and he's still unresponsive. The water-bearer hasn't come, and she has no money to buy medicine from the pharmacist. When bombs explode, she and her two young daughters retreat into an underground shelter. Desperate, she then evades marauding soldiers to seek help from her aunt (Hassina Burgan), a prostitute who observes, "Those who don't know how to make love make war." Based on the Afghan-born, France-based writer Aliq Rahimi's 2008 novel, which won the Prix Goncourt, France's highest literary prize, this story vividly depicts the grim realities about the oppression women endure under the Taliban regime. The title comes from a legend about a magical rock, The Patience Stone, which absorbs the misery of those who confide in it -- until it eventually shatters.

So the distraught woman returns -- day after day -- to pour out the painful secrets of her heart to her injured, unresponsive husband. Hesitantly at first, then candidly, she unburdens her soul in long soliloquies of self-discovery, detailing in repeated flashbacks the harrowing abuses she has suffered, her deceits, and her yearning for romantic love. The psychological freedom generated by this confidence-inspiring confessional transforms her from victim to warrior.

With screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, writer/director Atiq Rahimi has fashioned a harrowing, horrifying film, which was selected as Afghanistan's entry for the 2013 Academy Awards. At its core is the compelling performance by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, a real-life rebel, exiled from the Islamic Republic which condemned her for playing opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in "Body of Lies" and posing for provocative photographs.

In Farsi (a.k.a. Dari), the

Persian dialect spoken in Afghanistan, with English subtitles.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Patience Stone" is a profoundly disturbing 7 -- because of Golshifteh Farahani's enthralling performance.

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