Wednesday, November 19, 2014
*** out of ****
Rosewater is the story of an Iranian-Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal), who was arrested in Iran while covering protests after the 2009 election. To his surprise, he was held in solitary confinement shortly after participating in a satirical interview for The Daily Show and accused of being a spy. This film is about the endurance of his 118 days of imprisonment and cruel interrogation.
Jon Stewart's directorial debut is admirable but only so creative. While a comedic newscaster may be an unusual source for a serious movie, his work reminds me of films in the past which come from actors trying their hand in directing for the first time. The emotion is invested in the performances while gimmicks on the technical side of the process don't always sync up with that emotion.
In this film's case, there are maybe one too many special effects to feed us abstract messages, but not to a tasteless degree. I could have done without a shot of the hero walking down a Tehran street having memories of his departed father as images of the man are digitally superimposed on the window's reflections.
There is already the risk of a tired cliche when he imagines his father comforting him during solitary confinement. I was reminded of a similar scene recently in Orange is the New Black when a character in a similar situation hears the voice of an imaginary person through the wall, which was a much more psychologically effective approach. I understand that the character in this film needs his father, but I didn't need to literally see him.
I don't wish to continue nit-picking Stewart's choices in technique. This is a good movie with a good message about fear conquered by imagination. There's enough here to suggest that Stewart could find a career in directing, should he ever retire from his current position. With this being his first film, he's figured out a lot and chosen a great subject through an intense story that brings a western audience closer to understanding the humanity in a part of the world that it fears.