What fan of independent world cinema wouldn’t want to see an Iranian film about a teenage lesbian relationship? CIRCUMSTANCE gets a lot of mileage from its novel premise alone. That director Maryam Keshavarz herself conveys a decidedly more youthful viewpoint of Iran than what most western audiences are familiar with (via the likes of Kiarostami, Panahi, etc;) renders that premise damn near irresistible—particularly to those of us who want to see what Iranian youth are really like. When Keshavarz offers a peek into an edgy dance club or four young adults covertly dubbing an American film into Persian, it carries an electrical charge, vindication that a culture is not always how we imagine it and simultaneously similar to our own.

Sadly, Keshavarz hasn’t made a film where these and some other often lovely moments cohere. In constructing a romance between two girls, one from an affluent, comparatively liberal family, the other from a more modest, conservative background, she gets the big picture across with ease. Forbidden love, regardless of the participants’ sex or social background is a concept easily grasped. Where she runs into trouble is with all the details and nuances that, when applied right, lend a concept depth and grace. Here, the screenplay is woefully underdeveloped and sloppy to the point where some of the characters’ motivations seem fuzzy or simply glossed over. She ends up squandering such an intriguing premise with what resembles a first or second draft in need of some fine tuning.

Score (out of 10): 5

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