Sally Field delivers an Academy Award-level performance and a strong witness for the Lord in this moving and dramatic true story about an American woman who makes a desperate escape with her daughter from a Middle East country. Set in 1984, Betty Mahmoody is a wife and mother who enjoys a happy middle-class life in Alpena, Michigan. She and her doctor husband, Moody, an Iranian who came to the U.S. twenty years ago, have a five-year-old daughter, Mahtob.
Betty’s life changes forever, though, when she reluctantly agrees to visit her husband’s family in Iran. Betty is upset, nervous and worried about her safety, but Moody swears on the Koran that he will allow no danger or harm to befall her.
Upon arriving in Tehran, the clash of cultures is immediate. Betty sees pictures of Khomeni everywhere, experiences Moody’s family’s dislike of her, is forced to wear a shawl, and at one point is almost killed for not covering her head. Then, Moody unloads a bombshell: he wants to live and work in Iran and wants his daughter to become a Muslim, since “the gift of Islam is the greatest gift I could give my child.”
What has happened? Evidently, Moody has become one of many Muslims who, after the 1979 Iranian Revolution which disposed of the Shah, have felt guilty for deserting their country and are now returning, overjoyed that Iran is now an Islamic state.
Husband and wife are split viciously over staying. Betty asks her husband’s family how can Moody swear on his sacred Koran and do this to her? Moody, growing ever more militant and fanatic in his back-to-the-Koran Islamic faith, says, “You’re my wife and you’ll do as I say!” Betty responds with her Christian faith by taking Mahtob to the bedroom and praying: “Dear Lord, help us return to America.”
Betty decides to combine faith with action. Even though she is confined to the house with everyone’s watchful eye upon her, she manages a secret trip to the Swiss embassy, only to learn that she cannot be freed. On a subsequent excursion into town, Betty learns if she gets a divorce, she can leave, but without her daughter. Betty is later caught and suffers a beating and death threat from her husband, but Betty gathers her resolve and prays again to the Lord for help.
The suspense and acting in NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER are excellent, and all of it is believable, from the first miracle that Betty encounters to a store merchant who agrees to aid her. The film shows the true horrors and evils of Islam, from the denial of female sexuality in husband/wife relationships to the fanatical religiosity which drives this people.
For instance, all of us have a public, personal and private life. Our public life is what we let the world see of us, our personal life is what we share with our spouse or those closest to us, and our private life is what we share only with God. Yet Muslim men demand that their wives surrender even their private life to them. In fact, the Muslim mindset believes that they are actually doing Allah’s will.
Sally Field, who plays Betty Mahmoody, gives a strong witness for Christ. In the film, the work of this believer stands the test of fire; and, for Christian viewers, it has the effect of building one’s faith. The film is rated PG-13 more for the physical wife abuse that occurs than for the instances of profanity or obscenity (there are only 4).
It is unlikely that NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER will have a Salmon Rushdi effect in which Muslims rise up in protest, mainly because of the skillful and tasteful way in which the story is handled. That is, never is the Muslim faith put down nor, for that matter, is Christianity overtly exalted as being better. Rather, it is shown through one woman’s dynamic, personal relationship with the Lord is she able to overcome her circumstances. This is, after all, what Christianity is all about.
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3 profanities and 2 obscenities; brief violence; and, thwarted rape attempt, which are relevant to story