By Joe McGovern
November 19, 2014 at 05:00 AM EST
Laith Majali

In 2009 Newsweek sent the Iranian-born, U.K.-based Maziar Bahari to his native country to cover the fraudulent reelection of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. When the state later apprehended Bahari on suspicion of espionage, the evidence included an interview he’d done for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. Stewart felt pangs of guilt over Bahari’s Kafkaesque plight, and so the host, who’d never written or directed a movie before, put on both hats—and toned down his famously crackling snark—for his debut gig. Rosewater, starring the geeky-charismatic Gael García Bernal as Bahari, is a gripping drama, smartly calibrated for Western audiences who still need an education in the bright, progressive, fight-back impulses in Iranian culture. The film’s first half, about the election and its aftermath, is stronger than its periodically indulgent second, which chronicles Bahari’s 118 days in solitary confinement. (Though as an interrogator, the soulful Danish actor Kim Bodnia deserves to have his name learned by Oscar voters.) In a choice as simple as it is poignant, Stewart closes with the inspirational image of a boy and his camera phone, effectively dedicating his fine film, now and forever, to the children of the revolution. B+

  • Movie
  • 103 minutes
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