Big Brother is here and he’s operating out of Tehran in this Sundance award-winning drama by first-time feature director Maryam Keshavarz. 16-year-old Atafeh and her underprivileged female friend Shireen bravely explore their burgeoning attraction for each other slightly out of the view of their repressive society. They frequent underground discos, free-spirited parties, and bootleg DVD shops where they do drugs, spray paint walls, and commit acts of general vandalism that provide them with rare moments of true freedom. This all changes when Atafeh’s former drug addict brother Mehran is released from prison. Mehran is lost and racked with guilt until he finds religion and joins up with the morality police. Mehran becomes suspicious of even his own family and soon sets up surveillance cameras throughout their home. This leads to trouble for the young lovers who soon learn the frightening realities of their culture first-hand. Hopelessness and cruelty abound in a series of unpredictable scenes that lead to a heart-breaking yet hopeful climax.
Circumstance is a well-made film featuring a truly impressive cast that are of great benefit to a script that may come across as a bit over the top. Reza Sixo Safai is especially convincing in his frightening yet understated performance as the watchful brother. There are quite a few interesting situations involving the sins of the parents, it is in fact Atafeh and Mehran’s father’s generation of revolutionaries that may be to blame for the country’s modern evolution towards repression. It’s a heavy film that provides a rare glimpse into the world of modern Iranian youth that is well worth moviegoers’ time.
Circumstance opens today at the Ritz at the Bourse.