“Rosewater” is the kind of movie that’s easy to admire, hard to recommend.
The story is solid and uplifting. The cast delivers compelling performances. It’s an impressive debut from first-time director Jon Stewart. It’s a fine film.
But do you really want to spend date night watching a young man being psychologically — and sometimes physically — tortured for more than an hour? And pay for it?
Based on the memoir “Then They Came for Me” by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy, “Rosewater” stars Gael García Bernal as Bahari, an Iranian-born journalist living and working in London. In 2009 he returned to Iran to visit his mother (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and cover the country’s presidential election.
In the unrest that follows the election, Bahari shoots video that doesn’t please the government. Further complicating matters, he takes part in a segment for Stewart’s news-satire program “The Daily Show,” where he’s interviewed by Jason Jones, who is pretending to be a spy. It doesn’t help that Bahari’s father and sister both had run-ins with the government.
Sure enough, one day the authorities arrive and cart Bahari away. He spends the next 118 days either in solitary confinement or in a small room with his interrogator (Kim Bodnia). He spends most of the time blindfolded.
“Rosewater” shows that Jon Stewart has more talent than just being a fake-news anchorman. He takes a serious incident and presents it with humor and compassion.