It tells the true story of Maziar Bahari (Gael García Bernal) a journalist who travels to Iran on assignment from Newsweek to cover the 2009 elections. After covering the riots that followed, Bahari was arrested, detained, and tortured in an Iranian prison for over 100 days under the suspicion of being a Western spy.
The trailer can be seen here.
- Antagonist Title: "Rosewater" is Bahari's (private) nickname for his interrogator.
- As Himself: Jason Jones, the The Daily Show correspondent whose satiric interview with Bahari led to his imprisonment, appears as himself.
- Based on a True Story/The Film of the Book: On Bahari's 2011 memoir "Then They Came for Me"
- Bittersweet Ending: Thanks to international outcry, Bahari is released after he signs an agreement to become a spy but the people he knows for the opposition, including his driver, are still imprisoned. He can also never go back to Iran.
- Black and White Insanity: The Iranian government operates on this, because America is the great enemy, having caused a coup in 1953 and overthrown a democratic regime.
- Blatant Lies:
- After confessing, and still being in jail, Bahari starts making up stories about how he travels frequently for "sexual massage". Rosewater, who is sexually repressed, stops the torture to listen with guilty fascination.
- The guards finally let Bahari go after he signs and stamps an agreement to be a spy against "new media". He says he'll do it and then pulls Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.
- Break the Cutie: Bahari doesn't get a break from the moment he lands on Iranian soil.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Rosewater and the other prison officials aren't portrayed as pure evil; more like frustrated people doing their job, bolstered by fundamentalist fervor.
- Corpsing: In between takes for The Daily Show's segment on Iran, Jason and Bahari do this.
- Discretion Shot: Discussed. Bahri is asked why he didn't film something, and he points out that some things recorded can harm the movement.
- Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: Bahari is beaten, starved, and hammered with dozens of seemingly random questions in order to try and break his spirit.
- Go Mad from the Isolation: Bahari in solitary confinement starts hallucinating his father and sister. His father tells him to stand his ground and tell nothing.
- Helpful Hallucination: Bahri's father and sister.
- How We Got Here: After a short introductory sequence about what rosewater is, the film has Bahri being awakened by the secret police. Then the movie flashes back to how he got to this point.
- Insane Troll Logic: The Iranian government operates on this, thanks to The Fundamentalist leaders in power:
- Talking to a comedian pretending to be a spy and saying Iran and America aren't different when America is "The Great Satan"? Therefore you must be a spy!
- I Think You Broke Him: Implied to be the guards' sentiment when Bahari starts laughing after talking to his wife and learning their baby will be a girl; later on in his cell he starts dancing.
- Only Known By His Nickname: Rosewater himself, identifiable by Bahari only because of the strong-smelling cologne he wears.
- Past Victim Showcase: An unusual example... Bahari hallucinates conversations with his father and sister, both of whom were arrested and killed under previous Iranian regimes.
- Porn Stash: The secret police search his house, shoving (what to Westerners are tame) videos and magazines under his nose and asking if it is Pornography. At one point he has to shrug at a magazine that could be considered Poor Man's Porn.
- The Taxi: Bahari gets one at the ariport, then hires him as his driver during his time in Iran. It turns out the cab was borrowed, and the driver takes him around on his motorbike.
- Would Hurt a Child: The new Iranian regime blindfolded Bahari when he wanted to see his sister.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Jason Jones serves as this; his usual Jerkass persona of an ignorant American gets Bahari into trouble. In Real Life Jon Stewart made the film Rosewater because he felt responsible and wanted to talk about journalists in similar situations.