This weekend I caught a foreign film called Circumstance. It’s the story of two Iranian teenagers who find themselves completely devoted to each other in a country that not only looks down upon lesbian lifestyles but women in general. As you can imagine their path to happiness is beyond rocky.
The previews for this film were highly misleading portraying it mostly as a sexually explosive near-porn experience. I wouldn’t have objected to that but I do object to the clear misleading nature put forth. Frankly, I think it took away from what the film really is. While the two lead actresses are stunning women the story is a lot deeper than that.
The film isn’t without its challenges. The entire first third of the movie takes place at such a slow pace that I nearly lost all interest. We also find out very, very late in the movie one key piece of information any viewer should know at the outset and that’s that these two girls are, in fact, 16 years old. They easily look to be in their mid-20’s and that matters quite a bit here. One other issue is that the film heavily suggests that it’s illegal for women to drive in Iran. They get pulled over—supposedly for doing nothing but driving—at least twice in the film but women are free to drive there. I’m sure there’s another explanation but it’s not clear from the script. Perhaps it’s simply a case of harrassment, but it’s one area where many western audiences are unlikely to fully grasp.
Once we get past the back story slowly but surely the film begins to come together to make a lasting impression. The acting is absolutely top-notch in every single role. Most notable beyond the girls is the actor that portrays one of the girl’s brother. It’s a haunting role that grabs you from his first appearance and never lets go.
The film, of course, is really about the oppressive nature of the Iranian government especially on the free-spirited youth of the country who are forced to go to great lengths to enjoy the most basic types of typical teenager entertainment and experiences we all take for granted. Neither of the girl’s families are happy with their antics and understand the variables at play along with the fine balancing act that’s required to make a life there. None of this, of course, matters to the main characters—at least not yet.
Upon reflection the film haunts me more now than it did initially. Its story demands some level of retrospection and there you can finally start to appreciate it even with its imperfections. In the final analysis it’s a solid film that will (or should) cause you to think about just how lucky we do have it in more liberal countries.