- Director: Maryam Keshavarz
- Genre: Drama
- Cert: 15A
- Details: France/Iran / 106mins
Intriguing and riveting for the first half, when asked to take the drama up the required notch for the second half, Circumstance is found wanting and the story just peters out. A winner of the Audience Award at 2011's Sundance, that success seems to be based on the issues raised - which are interesting - rather than the execution.
Atafeh (Boosheri) and Shireen (Kazemy) are two teenage girls growing up under Iran's repressive regime. The adventurous Atafeh encourages the more cautious Shireen to join her at clandestine parties where other like-minded kids ditch hijab in favour of tunes, sex and drugs. This lifestyle brings them into the circle of Atafeh's brother Mehram (Safai), who has rejected a career in music for the morality police, much to his liberal parents' bemusement. Meanwhile, the two friends begin to succumb to the whiff of sexual tension that exists between them.
In her feature debut writer-director Maryam Keshavarz, who based Circumstance on personal experiences, works hard not to sensationalise things. When Atafeh and Shireen are questioned by the morality police in a windowless room, the interrogation isn't exactly Room 101 and Atafeh keeps her cool throughout the taunts of 'whore'. But where she plays down this, Maryam Keshavarz works too hard to get across the repressive 'you are being watched' mood: the overuse of CCTV footage that stalks the girls' every move is distracting. Where Circumstance can't be faulted is its performances. Newcomers Boosheri and Kazemy ooze sex appeal and aren't too shabby in the dramatic department either. Meanwhile Rafai nails the sane/twitchy middle ground.
But just as things start to heat up, Circumstance stays in the same gear. As the morality police close in on the kids, and Mehram's obsession with both Shireen and his God begin to take over, Circumstance fails to find enough incident to stop interest flagging. We’ve been treated to some great Iranian dram in the last few years - A Separation, The Hunter, Who Knows About Persian Cats, Offside, The Green Wave and Persepolis being just a few -and despite its flaws, Circumstance deserves to be mentioned in the same breath.
Review by Gavin Burke | 11:12 | Friday 31st August 2012 | Movie Review
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