Tweetable Takeaway: Rosewater tells a fascinating true-life story with effective directing by Jon Stewart & top-notch acting by Gael García Bernal.
By: Wil Loper, Contributor
In ROSEWATER, Jon Stewart (yes, THAT Jon Stewart) writes and directs the real life story of a journalist held against his will and tortured, and surprisingly, there’s no punch line to the movie like there would be on The Daily Show. The movie is sobering, heartfelt, and genuine. I can’t wait for Stephen Colbert’s directorial debut.
The movie begins with journalist Maziar Bahari (played excellently by Gael García Bernal) getting arrested in Iran and not really knowing why. The film then backtracks and shows the events leading up to the arrest. Bahari leaves his pregnant wife in England to visit his home country of Iran to make some extra cash shooting footage of the Iranian election. He’s only to be gone a week, but when protests erupt claiming the election was rigged, Bahari ends up staying longer, filming violence in the protests, and after doing an interview on The Daily Show, is arrested for being a spy. The next four months he is interrogated and tortured in all manner of ways.
The context of the movie is relevant, and may help shed light on the violence and other issues that occur in the movie. But Stewart and the movie focus on the characters, fully fleshing out living, breathing people with more than one dimension. There are bad people in the movie, but they aren’t the one-note bad guys we see all too often in big-budget flicks, where being Middle Eastern or wearing a turban is an easy shortcut to discern the bad guys. We see this most prevalently displayed in Bahari’s main interrogator, played by Kim Bodnia. One of the film’s most enjoyable sequences comes when Bahari cracks his interrogator’s tough exterior by figuring out his sexual vices.
The film also manages to focus on intimate themes of hope and the human spirit prevailing against tremendous adversity. It’s that universal quality of human nature that lifts this film up, the celebration that we’re all just people underneath it all. There are small stylistic flourishes throughout: Bahari’s dead father and sister visit his cell in visions, there are small instances of intercutting, but for the most part the movie is played straight and shot almost documentary-like, which is fitting given the movie’s content. Stewart’s comedic slant so prevalent in his show is present only in small doses here; levity is given when needed and never overdone.
Rosewater is an important movie, the plot isn’t so heavy as to turn casual moviegoers away, and the acting is top-notch. The real-life aspects of the movie only make it all the more fascinating, and just as Bahari finds hope in the movie, so too is hope given at the end of the movie, that it’s only a matter of time before there’s an end to all the violence and cruelty of the world. It’s an optimistic worldview, and one can only hope it’s a possible one too. I give this film 4 ‘Not Diego Lunas’ out of 5
Score: 4 out of 5