“Rosewater” the story of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari will be released this Friday Already receiving positive reviews, this film isn’t the average detained journalist story.
First time director Jon Stewart brings Bahari’s life to the screen. Stewart adapts his New York Times bestselling memoir “Then They Came for Me.” Since an appearance on Stewart’s show was a key reason for his arrest, it seems fitting that he adapts Bahari’s story for the silver screen. Stewart as a first time director directs a moderate movie that doesn’t connect with audiences.
This movie tells the story of Bahari (Gael García Bernal) as he goes from covering the 2009 election in Iran to being arrested as a spy and interrogated for 118 days. In 2009, Iran was in a volatile state prior to and following the election between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and independent reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi. The battle lines between the old regime and possible change were drawn. Bahari simply wanted to cover the story yet fate had different plans.
Despite the expected overall serious tone of this movie, it seems to take a lighter spin on the material. Possibly Stewart’s comedic style seeps into the telling of this story but it creates a lighter feel rather than a serious, heavy drama. The lack of connection between the characters and the audience gives it a fun feel but not a reach out to your core feeling. Bernal seems to adopt a comedic feel into his performance. He creates a completely likable character though little else. He might do the best with the material he had, yet it leaves audiences with an indifferent feeling.
After being arrested, Bahari is interrogated as his mother Moloojoon (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and pregnant fiancée Paola (Claire Foy) wait for his release. Aghdashloo and Foy appear minimally on screen as they seem the most emotional driven characters, yet audiences only briefly see their struggle and talent. The interrogator Rosewater (Kim Bodnia), who is called this way because this is what he smelled of, seems irrelevant. He is presented as a mindless follow the regime character that does what he is told to get a confession to stop the protest following the election outcome.
The movie flows at a rather swift pace leaving little room for the possibly necessary character development. Despite the glimpses into his past as he remembers visiting his father and sister when they were detained, their sacrifices seem mere footnotes rather than tender, inspirational memories. He remembers them fondly and draws strength from them, but he shies away from honoring their memory. He wants to do whatever he can to be free, maybe his lack of guilt and lunacy of his detainment is the best-highlighted feature of this movie. It creates a character that pokes fun at a serious situation and during his imprisonment, he uses humor to maintain his sanity until he is freed.
This movie won’t change the world but it offers an entertaining viewing. The power of a journalist with a camera daring to tell the real story in some of the most dangerous parts of the world is one of our most effective tools we have today. This movie doesn’t reflect such reverence. This adapted memoir into a movie was probably better left not adapted. “Rosewater” hits theaters this Friday.