No point in beating around the bush: Circumstance is the best
film I've seen at Sundance. First time feature writer/director Maryam Keshavarz
has crafted a breathtaking, sensual and important work of art; a film of the
highest order and a masterful first stroke.
is about two young Iranian women, Atafeh and Shireen, eager to abandon the
cultural taboos of their world and live boldly. In the midst of a nation that
can't understand them, they begin to fall in love with each other. At the same
time, Atafeh's brother, Mehran, returns from drug rehabilitation and commits
his life to Islam, ready to protect the traditions and morals of its belief
system, whatever the cost. As they drift farther and farther away from each
other, relationships between the three grow more strained and the family begins
cinematography in Circumstance is its most distinguishing characteristic. The
film is gorgeous from first frame to last, a canvas of astonishing lighting,
tight framing and bold colors. In retrospect, there are several standout
scenes, including a slow-motion family game of volleyball on the beach and the
Babel-esque disorientation of the club scenes. To highlight only a few, though,
is to slight the movie, there is beauty in every shot.
performances are phenomenal as well. Reza Sixo Safai marvelously captures
Rehman's slow descent from regret into obsession, Sarah Kazemy is somehow simultaneously
innocent and seductive and Nikohl Boosheri is a revelation of the most exciting
kind - staggeringly talented and subtly reserved.
is without a doubt one of this year's highlights, featuring stellar breakout
performances and particularly brilliant direction. It's an early masterpiece
from a cast and director we'll be seeing more of in the coming years.