Movie Review: Rosewater (2014)

Posted: June 20, 2015 in Drama


Newsweek Journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) was sent to Iran to cover the 2009 election between Mahmood Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi.  Polls on the day of the election showed Mousavi in the lead, but soon thereafter, Ahmadinejad was declared the winner.  As word of Ahmadinejad’s victory spread, protests began, and turned into the Green movement in Iran.  Bahari was jailed, accused of being a spy, and inciting the protests.  As the days turn into months, the representatives of the Iranian government threaten the killing of Bahari’s mother, Moloojoon (Shoreh  Agdhashloo) and wife Paola. (Claire Foy) What happens to Bahari?  Is he killed or released?

I want anyone who complains of political repression in the U.S. on either side of the political spectrum to watch this film to see what real political repression is.  The scenes of repeated torture are difficult to watch, but necessary to understand the mindset of the hardliners in Iran. The first 30 minutes of movie had more of the feel of a documentary, and the last hour had more of a movie feel.  There are bits of humor to break up the repeated instances of physical and verbal abuse.  If anything, showing the abusive behavior again and again, diminishes the impact of these scenes less powerful. It’s called the law of diminishing returns, each  time director Jon Stewart shows another scene of torture, the audience becomes a little more numb to it.

The acting is ok. Gayel Garcia Bernal illustrates the desperation of a man in an untenable situation well, but he’s not Iranian, and doesn’t sound Iranian, it may sound like I’m nitpicking, but a movie about the Green Revolution in Iran, should have an Iranian lead actor. The women who play Bahari’s mother and sister are both Iranian, and that adds to the authenticity of the film in my eyes.

I think the direction by first time director Jon Stewart is ok, the beginning of the film had a documentary feel to it, and I wished the who movie had maintained that tone, but the rest of the movie seemed to have not so good production values.  It may have been better if Stewart had made a straight up documentary film, instead of this pseudo-documentary.  Some of the less-documentary parts of this movie didn’t seem to ring true, that might sound odd, since it was based on an autobiography of Bahari’s life, but that’s how it seemed to me.

Rosewater:  A good movie that could have been better.


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