This quasi-documentary drama from director Roberto Minervini follows 14-year-old Sara as she lives and works on her family’s goat farm, and suddenly begins to question her strict Christian-inspired life. The quiet film, which is filled with both scripted and ad-libbed dialogue, reveals the torment of dissatisfaction, especially if you’re a woman in a male-dominated world.
From the very start of the film we’re shown that Sara is raised in a world where women are inherently secondary to men. The products of staunch Christian parents, Sara and her eleven siblings are home-schooled by their mother who also sits with her daughters to have surprisingly profound conversations about religion and a woman’s place in the world. This is evident by the fact that it’s the women of the family who take on the complete responsibility of the family’s goat farm from milking the goats to selling their products at farmer’s markets around the county and even providing medical assistance to the goats if needed.
Her work-heavy life is contrasted with the leisurely life of a neighbouring family of bull riders. Sara develops a mutual attraction with Colby, an passionate, amateur bull rider, but is unimpressed and uninterested by the violence of the sport into which Colby tries to introduce her. He soon loses interest in Sara and develops an attraction to Tayler, a female bull rider who is unafraid of competing with and against the boys, something Sara’s religious beliefs tell her she can’t do.
Sara is not a woman of many words, but when she does speak we can’t help but listen. When discussing their futures with her sisters, each one of them admits that they want to get married and have kids and it’s revealed that their reasoning is simply because that’s what the Bible says a woman is supposed to do. When asked about her future, Sara blatantly responds that getting married is not at all what she wants, a comment which incites ridicule and teasing from her sisters. She’s only fourteen, but she already knows that the life she’s told she should have is exactly the one she doesn’t want at all.
Throughout the movie, we can tell that there’s something bothering Sara, but we’re not quite sure what it is until a crucial moment when Sara reveals to her mother that she doesn’t think she can be a good Christian. Her mother—a well-meaning, loving woman—proceeds into a calming speech about her own opinions of how one should be a good Christian, which includes having the occasional doubt. Sara listens quietly and respectfully, but on her face there is heavy doubt, just like there has been every other time she’s been given a similar lecture. She feels trapped and suspects it’s because of a religion that oppresses her, but is unable to successfully work through it.
If we delve deeply enough, we could easily see Stop The Pounding Heart as a metaphor for womanhood with Sara acting as the feminist in us all, but even without going that far, the movie still shows that going against the status quo isn’t something limited to those privileged with expensive education. Rebellion can stem from nothing more than a feeling that something isn’t right and the simple acknowledgement of that can be enough to kickstart a revolution.