Rosewater review

Kicking up a stink...

GamesRadar+ Verdict

A modest, moving film, Rosewater goes to show that quiet outrage can speak as loud as any atrocity.

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Kicking up a stink...

In 2009, Iranian-Canadian Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari appeared on The Daily Show while in Tehran covering the Iranian elections. A Daily Show correspondent asked him, jokingly, about being a spy; eleven days later he found himself in prison, blindfolded, and being tortured by an official known only as Rosewater, after his cologne.

The Iranian government, it seemed, was not in on the joke. Perhaps the same government would appreciate the irony that outgoing Daily Show host Jon Stewart has turned writer/director to adapt Bahari’s account, Then They Came For Me, for the screen. But then perhaps not – they’ve already accused Stewart of CIA ties...

On secondment from London, while staying with wonderfully irascible mum Moloojoon (Shohreh Aghdashloo), Bahari (Gael García Bernal) hires driver Davood (Dimitri Leonidas) to whiz him around Tehran on the back of a scooter, to soak up the pre-election atmosphere in the charged, conflicted city. “Just because you can’t see the cockroaches doesn’t mean they’re not there,” warns Davood, before a highly suspect landslide victory fans the flames of revolt.

Once detained, Bahari’s plight intensifies along with Rosewater’s (Kim Bodnia) interrogation tactics, Bernal’s performance proving as empathetic as Bodnia’s is emphatic. “We need his face for the cameras,” warns Rosewater’s boss. “This will take much more than just a fist.” Suddenly 1984’s chilling prophesy “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever” doesn’t sound so far-fetched.

Earlier, Davood chides Bahari for not filming the violence; “You have a real weapon,” he tells him, “and you chose not to use it.” Full marks to Stewart and co for choosing to use theirs.

More info

Theatrical release8 May 2015
DirectorJon Stewart
Starring"Gael Garca Bernal","Kim Bodnia","Dimitri Leonidas","Haluk Bilginer","Shohreh Aghdashloo"
Available platformsMovie
Freelance Writer

Matt Glasby is a freelance film and TV journalist. You can find his work on Total Film - in print and online - as well as at publications like the Radio Times, Channel 4, DVD REview, Flicks, GQ, Hotdog, Little White Lies, and SFX, among others. He is also the author of several novels, including The Book of Horror: The Anatomy of Fear in Film and Britpop Cinema: From Trainspotting To This Is England.