A tale of love and family upended by obsession and suspicion, "Circumstance" is also a provocative coming-of-age story that cracks open the hidden world of Iranian youth culture, where a young woman's most electrifying passion is her most dangerous secret.
The Audience Award winner at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Maryam Keshavarz's debut boldly takes filmgoers inside a modern Iran rarely witnessed by outsiders: an exhilarating, invisible realm of illicit parties where young hipsters risk arrest, and their futures, as they experiment with sex, drugs and defiance.
In this unseen world, rife with playfulness and peril, two vivacious teenage girls — wealthy Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri) and orphaned Shireen (Sarah Kazemy) — are discovering their burgeoning sexuality. Like 16 year-old girls anywhere, they are full of wild yearnings and imaginative fantasies. And while the simplest things — swimming, singing, becoming who they dream of being — are often disallowed to them, they take risks every day to lead their own lives.
But when Atafeh's troubled brother, Mehran (Reza Sixo Safai), suddenly returns home from drug rehab, their private world is threatened. Looking to start his life anew, Mehran joins the Morality Police, a volunteer force that pursues those who break the country's strict cultural laws. Attracted to Shireen and dismayed by her love for Atafeh, Mehran begins an unsettling and shadowy campaign of spying on his own family. As he ramps up his surveillance, the consequences ensnare them all in a complicated web of desire and betrayal that will unravel their bonds and compel them each to make starkly different decisions.