Circumstance Movie Review
It centres on Atafeh (Noosheri), a teenager who lives with her liberal musician parents (Parsa and Pakkho) in upper-class Tehran. When her older brother Mehran (Safai) returns home after years of drug abuse, the family worries about his newfound devout Muslim faith. Meanwhile, Atafeh spends most nights partying with her poorer best friend Shireen (Kazemy). They meet a couple of guys (Mohajeri and Amedson) and help them dub Sean Penn's Oscar-winning film Milk into Farsi to distribute on the black market. And they also start to fall in love with each other. With the morality police on the prowl, they dream of escaping to live somewhere that's free.
Iran's censors would never have allowed Keshavarz to depict a lesbian romance amid the underground youth culture of illicit music, movies and drugs.
Intriguingly, she depicts all of this within the strongly religious culture, which vividly highlights the contrast between Atafeh's open-minded parents and Shireen's much more restrictive guardians, who present her with a string of suitable husbands to choose from. Alongside this we also see Mehran's growing fundamentalism, echoing the way the leaders are shutting down what was once a vibrant society.
The film never overstates any of this, merely telling a personal love story in this context and letting us understand the pressures on Atafeh and Shireen as they long for a future together. Sometimes this takes the form of a gentle comment or warm conversation, while other scenes involve much more frightening encounters with cops and judges. Through all of this, the cast members deliver naturalistic performances that help us identify with the characters. In many ways, the pressures these girls face are no different than anywhere else on earth. And "true believers" who see the world in black and white are terrifying wherever they are.