Circumstance walks the line of a revolution for two hours, never once tripping over its feet. Directed by Maryam Keshavarz, this star-crossed romance features two of the strongest performances of the festival in Sarah Kazemy and  Nikohl Boosheri. The two play young, liberated women living in an Iran determined to be socially repressed. Shireen (Kazemy) is the daughter of intellectual writers/rebels long since disappeared, the young woman taken in by her best friend Atafeh’s (Boosheri) family. Atafeh’s a talented musician and diligent student, eager to be distracted.

Shireen provides as much, and then some. Soon the two discover each other’s bodies, and their romance blossoms. None of this feels forced, thanks both to the conviction of these young performers and the confident framing of Keshavarz and his cinematographer Brian Rigney Rubbard.

Young intellectuals on the brink of change serve as a benchmark for most every cinematic movement in history, from Mexico to Romania. Iran is no different, and Keshavarz emerges as an original voice. Consider a scene in which Shireen, Atafeh and friends Hossein (Sina Amedson) and Joey (Keon Mohajeri) debate dubbing Gus Van Sant’s Milk into Farsi, an illegal act of rebellion in their country. It’s funny scene, full of homophobic jokes meant to mask the seriousness of the crime they’re all about to commit.

So goes the rest of the film, a mixed bag of institutional paranoia, jaded idealisms and youthful ambition. Mehran (Reza Sixo Safai), Atafeh’s ex-drug addict brother, turns to religion and those that enforce the strict policies of said beliefs. Atafeh and Shireen turn the over way. Meanwhile, their father (Nasrin Pakkho) fights against the young rebel he once was in favor of good money and a good home for his family.

Punk rock and club music populate the film, adding edge to a common story. The color tone goes from hot to cold from scene to scene, never feeling out of place or abrupt. The plot moves calm and cooly, a deliberatey-paced slow burn that brings all of the issues to the surface deep into the third act without ever patronizing the viewer.

Does this topic interest you? Do you follow the turmoil in Iran?

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