Set in an unnamed war-torn country assumed to be Afghanistan, The Patience Stone follows the story of an equally unnamed man and woman as he becomes comatose after a skirmish with a bullet lodged in his neck, and his wife must take care of him in their shabby rooms while the war rages outside. A wheelchair-using neighbor is similarly affected, also unable to use the emergency shelter because of several stairs.
Hospital care is non-existent and the “serum” the man needs for nutrition is expensive and hard to obtain. The man’s brothers never show up to evacuate him or provide the serum, so the increasingly desperate woman turns to prostitution. (She folds the man up and hides him behind a curtain to receive visits from a young soldier unable to talk to other girls because of a stutter.) But having never had a chance before to express herself to her husband without censure, the woman slowly begins to tell him her innermost thoughts. In this way, the husband unconsciously embodies the mythological syngué sabour, the Patience Stone which absorbs the suffering of those who confide in it… until it can handle no more, and explodes, destroying the world.
The film’s depiction of the care of a comatose person is so minimalist as to be ridiculous, and the film must be interpreted as more of an allegory of suffering and retribution in war and marriage than an accurate depiction of brain injury and disability. But seen through the lens of disability, the film can also be read as a depiction of caregiver burnout. With no family or societal support for the caregiver, it’s little wonder their little world implodes.