Kyle J. Steenblik

Rosewater is earnestly engaging and profound

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ROSEWATER-POSTER-Rosewater is among the rare films that leave you feeling both uplifted and devastatingly heartbroken.  The truth of the story is unavoidable, you could not hide from the truth this film holds to the light even if you wanted to.  It is a film that can drive change by changing the minds of a susceptible audience without using force to achieve its goals.  The source of this success if John Stewart.  This was his first job as a film director.  He had admitted to knowing he had a limited vocabulary in this respect.  What he did have is the ability to find people who could fill in his gaps, and he did this beautifully.  I was genuinely impressed with this film and Stewart’s directing.  While the film has flaws, and occasionally stumbles, it never lost its momentum.

In June 2009, BBC journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael García Bernal), an Iranian-born Canadian citizen, returned to his native country to interview Mir-Hossein Moussavi, the prime challenger to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  During this time, Bahari was interviewed by The Daily Show where he was satirically identified as a spy, and publicly offered that Iran and the United States were not as different as people might believe.  This proved to be the justification for Maziar Bahari’s imprisonment and 118-day long torture at the hands of the Iranian government and his interrogator known only as Rosewater (Kim Bodnia).

John Stewart adapted the screenplay from Maziar Bahari’s book Then They Came for Me, while Bahari served as a consultant on the script and the film to maintain accuracy of the story and details.  The fact that Bahari was involved, to the point where he was providing details on the way Rosewater would hit him with his wedding ring, almost brought tears to my eyes.  Knowing someone had to live through 118 days of torture, then to relive it countless times while he wrote a book read the screenplay, and participated in the filming of this movie is unimaginable for me.  That point alone I feel justifies holding this film in high regard, and is enough to carry my recommendation, but that is not the only point that merits my regard and recommendation.

Rosewater-Movie-Stills-WallpaperThe streams of humor running through this film serve to not only cut the serious moments of the film and make them watchable, but it adds a needed element of believability.  Life is funny; gallows humor is some of the oldest and best in the world.  As humans, we all universally laugh just to cope with our own mortality.  The less humor a film possesses, the less an audience relates, the less effective the truths on display will be.  Rosewater contains the perfect amount of humor, which could only be delivered at the hands of a very skilled comedian.

The performances from Gael García Bernal and Kim Bodnia are extraordinary.  While both reserved and unabashedly larger than life, they play off each other like old advisories become fast friends.  Bodnia give Rosewater a humanity that allows the audience to relate to his character, even as he tortures Maziar Bahari.  Throughout the film, there is a distinct impression that in spite of his actions, Rosewater does not really desire to hurt Bahari, but has no choice but to perform his duty.  While Bernal passes several opportunities to chew his way through the scenery, he wastes no time on screen and shares beautifully.  His performance was magnificent to watch.

Rosewater effectively places the truth on a screen, and unabashedly pulls you in.  It is both uplifting and heart wrenching, and it is absolutely worth the time it takes to watch.  4 out of 5.

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