'Circumstance'

"The alarm is going off. Are you going to get that or am I?"

**1/2 (out of four)

Tickets would sell a lot faster if “Circumstance” were called “Beautiful Iranian Lesbians in Love.” Of course, if this were a tale of a simple, blissful relationship between two women, it wouldn’t be set in Tehran, Iran—or plenty of other places around the world. Like many films set in oppressive countries, “Circumstance” is about the agony felt on the short end of repression, and its familiar characterizations make the movie feel less eye-opening and specific than something like “No One Knows About Persian Cats” (a movie you probably didn’t see about Iran’s underground rock scene). In “Circumstance,” teenage best friends Shireen (Sarah Kazemy) and Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri) dream of a carefree life filled with singing and dancing and more time spent elevating their playful rapport to something much steamier. This story should fearlessly explore a unique perspective in a fresh way; instead, it constantly, bluntly reiterates the movie’s main points until majorly downshifting to a shallow, unsatisfying ending. In the most intense moments, though, both when passion nearly boils over and when the degradation of women is at its most sickening, “Circumstance” trembles with the kind of honest rage that dangerous people prefer to silence. 

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mpais@tribune.com