For Reel

Circumstance (2011)
June 13, 2011, 6:30 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Maryam Keshavarz

Winner of the Dramatic Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Circumstance is a coming-of-age lesbian drama set in modern-day Iran. Atafeh and Shireen, both sixteen, rebel against the totalitarian regime by attending dance clubs and even dubbing Gus Van Sant’s Milk in order to ignite a gay rights movement among the Iranian youth. As the two girls explore each other sexually, they are challenged by Atafeh’s ex-convict brother, Mehran, who now is a devout Muslim and seeks to serve the regime’s cause by, among other things, putting his household under constant surveillance. Though the film is largely successful in its early half – filled with both observational humor (one shot juxtaposes Muslim men in speedos at a beach while women wear their hijabs) and beautifully photographed, highly stylized romance – the latter half is tedious and, in the character of the brother, wholly unconvincing. Keshavarz, having family in Iran, clearly knows these people and offers a fascinating slice of life, however the mechanics of her screenplay are transparent and manipulative, descending into full-blown melodrama by the third act.


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