Movie Review : Circumstance (2011)

Directed by: Maryam Keshavarz

Running Time: 107 minutes

Language: Persian

Have I mentioned I love movie trailers? I absolutely louuuuvvvv trailers. When I was younger, I wanted to grow up and become a movie-trailer maker. Well, just so you know, I’m grown up and that hasn’t happened…yet. Now, let’s just say I did grow up and become a movie-trailer maker… Circumstance’s trailer would be the one I’d want to have made. If you haven’t seen it already, please do and when you are done come back. We have things to discuss.

2 mins 14 seconds later…

Catchy isn’t it? The breathy whispering in an exotic tongue… the tantalizingly plonks of foreign strings … the powerful Ila-Arunish guttural  … cherried with trance-y beats… all building up to a powerful crescendo. Only to end with the lingering notes of a piano. And that’s just the music! Don’t get me started on the visuals. Oh my. But I’ll do you one better and talk about the whole movie. Unfortunately, here is where it gets tricky. This is NOT a gay-lesbian-themed movie as the trailer might have you believe. Homosexuality is simply not an “issue” in this story. Yet, the lack of is not necessarily a bad thing because this movie, very subtly, is about a whole lot more. Though, you never quite come away from it feeling as you might from a delicious meal of epic proportions….bursting at the seams.

Let’s get into the story: Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri) and Shireen (Sarah Kazemy) are BFFs. Atafeh comes from a rich liberal Iranian family. Shireen, on the other hand, is an orphan and lives with her aunt and uncle. The twosome do what any normal kids would do under oppressive regimes – they go drinking, partying, drugging and embracing their burgeoning sexuality [Nope, not gay yet] on the sly. Or however sly they can be because there are religious government spies ready to crack down on all things fun, everywhere. Atafeh has an elder brother – Mehran (Reza Sixo Safai) who used to be just like them. Then he went off to rehab, embraced religion and came back a fervent believer of God with odd hobbies and a creepy admirer of Shireen. Little sister’s BFF! How very convenient! Now the terrible twosome – Atafeh and Shireen are still doing these naughty things…which they also now start doing with each other [So, yes there was a reason for that trailer laced with homo-eroticism]. Alas! When they start having much too much of a good time partying, Mehran being a former bad boy himself gets them in trouble with the religious police and boom! Let the sad times begin…

So, here’s the thing – Circumstance is not a ground-breaking movie about the plight or rebellion of young adults under iron-fisted rule. Rather, Circumstance is a story about growing up, running into tough luck, facing bitterness, wanting freedom and having youthful joy battle confusion and sadness for the first time. All in an environment that is your home, your family and your country. Nothing that happens in this movie is very surprising. On the contrary, this film evokes emotions that are strangely nostalgic. Perhaps the titillation of the first same-sex crush that you never told anyone about…maybe the embarrassment when you got caught doing something terribly rebellious then but every-Saturday-night-now …Or the pangs of pain when your first love got married and you went for the wedding just to wish him or her well. Or is it that time you left a part of your life behind knowing deep within it was for the best? This movie is all of that steeped in a pleasant hue the color of tea, with very good actors. Not only are the two female leads quite attractive [I see you nodding] but I thought they did a great job. Especially because their real selves are quite different!

I mentioned earlier that homosexuality in this movie is not an “issue”. It isn’t. I thought this movie depicted sexuality in a way that normal kids straight or otherwise experience in their lives. When two women bonk …excuse me, I mean “touch each other” … it doesn’t immediately categorize them as lesbian. Rather, Circumstance highlights exploration and discovery more than the illicit nature of any particular relationship. The story touches upon the tensions, status quos and what is allowed and not allowed in society. I didn’t come away from the movie having an opinion on any of the characters’ sexuality [I came away thinking damn! Iranian women are pretty and oppressive regimes are such party crashers]

With all this said, the movie in itself may not live up to the promises of the striking trailer. Circumstance, however, is worth a watch on a lazy Friday evening in, when the blues or the reds or old memories need a little attention.

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Queer Coolie is the pink and cheery avatar of a single Indian lesbian recently repatriated from the US. She also dabbles at being the following - Editor @gaysifamily | Dimsum Lover | Kettlebell Swinger | Startup Standup | Bathroom Beyoncé
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