'Circumstance': A tale of teen love in Iran

Sarah Kazemy, left, and Nikohl Boosheri play two 16-year-old Iranian soul mates whose friendship turns into a love affair.

A glimpse into the world of teenage Tehranians - the girls with their head scarves off, grooving to sultry club music in plush apartments and secret boîtes - Circumstance is more interesting for its cultural views than for its insights into love, sex, family angst, and rebellious youth.

Written and directed by first-timer Maryam Keshavarz, Circumstance describes the friendship-turned-love affair between two 16-year-old high schoolers. Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri) hails from a well-heeled and cultured Iranian clan. Shireen (Sarah Kazemy) lives with her uncle and grandmother - Shireen's parents, once outspoken critics of the conservative Islamic government, are dead. (Circumstance was shot in Beirut, Lebanon, dressed up as Tehran.)

The young women are soul mates. They share tastes in music, in clothes, in movies (there's a funny scene where they debate the merits and sexual implications of the banned movies Milk and Sex and the City). And soon, they're sharing intimate moments together and fantasizing about clubbing in lesbian bars in Dubai. (If only they could run away together to Dubai, everything would be all right!) The fantasy sequences, with the girls in soft-core clinches, are pretty - and pretty pointless. But in the restrictive universe of Iranian cinema, the scenes can certainly be seen as provocative.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/.


Circumstance (Sharayet)

Directed by Maryam Keshavarz. With Soheil Parsa, Sina Amedson, Reza Sixo Safai, Nasrin Pakkho, Sarah Kazemy, Keon Mohajeri, Nikohl Boosheri. Distributed by Roadside Attractions.

Running time: 1 hours, 47 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for sexual content, language and some drug use).