Generally favorable reviews - based on 24 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 24
  2. Negative: 0 out of 24
  1. Reviewed by: Marc Savlov
    Sep 15, 2011
    Its sappy, melodramatic overtones – Bonnie Tyler not included – can be overlooked, as this is as much a political statement as it is a love story.
  2. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Sep 8, 2011
    A rhapsodic erotic romance that takes place in a cultural prison, and it pulses with a defiance that would be mischievous if it weren't so rip-roaringly angry.
  3. Reviewed by: Mark Olsen
    Aug 29, 2011
    Circumstance demonstrates raw talent and a taste for big ideas.
  4. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Sep 7, 2011
    The strongest message for most Western audiences will be the way the subjugation of women saturates every aspect of this society, and clearly informs even Mehran's kinkiness. Yes, but I wish Keshavarz had chosen a more low-key, everyday approach to two ordinary teenagers, and gone slowly on the lush eroticism and cinematic voyeurism.
  5. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Sep 8, 2011
    The film wages an internal battle between its ripely sensual atmosphere and its often stilted pacing and plotting.
  6. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Sep 2, 2011
    Despite its arty veneer and its ostensibly political edge, Circumstance seems more interested in titillation than revelation.
  7. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Aug 24, 2011
    Here, love and attraction between two teenage girls put them on a collision course with Tehran society in general and one girl's troubled, increasingly religious brother in particular.
  8. Reviewed by: Gary Goldstein
    Aug 29, 2011
    Kazemy and Boosheri are excellent, and Soheil Parsa and Nasrin Pakkho are also fine as Atefeh's doting, liberal parents. And if Keshavarz is less successful managing the film's sometimes choppy narrative, she is clearly willing to take risks on all fronts. More power to her.
  9. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Oct 13, 2011
    Circumstance, the story of the budding romance between two high school girls, is unlike any adolescent love story you've ever seen: This one takes place in Tehran.
  10. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Aug 26, 2011
    Keshavarz's vision is clear and heartfelt, and everyone has an urgency in their eyes.
  11. Reviewed by: V.A. Musetto
    Aug 26, 2011
    There are superb performances by Iranian-Canadian Nikohl Boosheri as Atafeh, the more rebellious of the two women, and French-born Sarah Kazemy as the less-privileged Shireen.
  12. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Aug 25, 2011
    Circumstance is best during its simpler, more naturalistic moments. In one, Mehran rebuffs a junkie who stumbles into the mosque, only to see that an Islamic hardliner is more compassionate.
  13. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Sep 8, 2011
    Circumstance is more interesting for its cultural views than for its insights into love, sex, family angst, and rebellious youth.
  14. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Aug 28, 2011
    As to the question of whether Circumstance is actually a good film, or just one with an important story to tell, a high degree of difficulty and some hot all-girl action, I think the verdict is mixed.
  15. Reviewed by: G. Allen Johnson
    Sep 8, 2011
    This movie doesn't work unless the central relationship between Atafeh and Shireen works. It does, beautifully; whether together in a nightclub or alone in a bedroom, Boosheri and Kazemy find a delicacy and sensitivity that reinforces, not diminishes, their strength.
  16. Reviewed by: Nick Schager
    Aug 22, 2011
    Since Mehran's embrace of hardline Islam is never dramatized or elaborated on in any insightful way.
  17. Reviewed by: Calvin Wilson
    Sep 16, 2011
    Offers an inside look at Iran in all its cultural complexity.
  18. Reviewed by: Sam Adams
    Aug 24, 2011
    Perhaps it's unfair to compare Circumstance to the very different "Persepolis," but it's hard not to drift off to Marjane Satrapi's more pungent and personally inflected evocation of the same terrain, in which the characters are as vivid as their surroundings.
  19. 75
    As the plot moves toward the climax, where each girl is forced to make a hard choice dictated by her unique "circumstance," that feeling of compression, of so many contradictory urges and needs vying for attention, grows almost overwhelming. Such is life among the young in present-day Tehran, up on the screen for all to see – all but those who most need to see it.
  20. Reviewed by: James Greenberg
    Jul 30, 2011
    Overall this is an impressive debut from a filmmaker with something to say and the talent to say it.
  21. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Aug 25, 2011
    Though it lacks the artful, headlong immediacy of "The Circle" and "Offside," Jafar Panahi's films about women in Tehran - and the breakneck exuberance of Bahman Ghobadi's "No One Knows About Persian Cats," about Tehran's underground music scene - Circumstance ripples with the indignant energy of youthful rebellion.
  22. Reviewed by: David Fear
    Aug 24, 2011
    The closer this parable inches toward tragedy, the more you can feel the gap between good intentions and generic exotica-grandstanding widening into an unbridgeable chasm.
  23. Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson
    Aug 23, 2011
    Keshavarz's earnest, well-intentioned first feature on women's oppression in Iran has trouble resisting its own heavy hand.
  24. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    Aug 25, 2011
    This is a movie about longing, desire, desperation and the abandonment of principle - quite a collection of themes, all universal.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 14 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. Jan 5, 2012
    At first it was confusing as I am unsure whether it is faithful to the culture. Women must cover their heads yet the girls wear high heels andAt first it was confusing as I am unsure whether it is faithful to the culture. Women must cover their heads yet the girls wear high heels and makeup. Not knowing the culture and only hearing snippets of what Iran is really like through NPR, the story was difficult to get involved in. But this changed as the fluent relationship of Atafeh and Shireen becomes exposed (to me). The spirit of the film is bubbling just under the false veneer of all the characters. I wanted them to burst out and stand up for themselves as in America. But the heartbreak is they are all trapped by their Circumstance under the repressive Iranian culture; even those characters I identified as evil. They are all searching for love, but even if they are lucky enough to find it, it becomes - suppress or die. Once I realized, from watching the extras on the DVD, the risk Ms Keshavra and all the Iranians took, it made the film all the more poignant. It is so important for us to know how lucky we are here and how deplorable conditions are around the world. Films such as this are must see; especially for the young people who shape not only our world but the global world. Full Review »
  2. Dec 19, 2011
    I found a delightful film, beautiful script, enjoyable acting, beautiful art direction and everything else ... What is disenchanted is knowingI found a delightful film, beautiful script, enjoyable acting, beautiful art direction and everything else ... What is disenchanted is knowing that in Iran and many other countries with this "religion" exists outside of fiction, and women are deprived of many things. The world has gone through so much and it has not changed yet.

    On the political level this film is sensational! It's a real lesson about the current "circumstances" that Iranian society is found, a consequence of the xiita revolution which occurred in country in the late 1970, which overthrew a dictator and the other was placed in power.
    The conversation they have in the "rental shop" shows well, and even an ironic way, the manipulation of the media and culture promoted by the government, as well as references and links to the human rights from the movie, which are fantastic. The "submission" of the women to men, by imposition, is also present in much of the film, many scenes that reach right to revolt and indignation.

    However, the romance part, although the relationship between them is beautiful and the characters were combined, is too vague and ends up being disappointing, the final says it so.
    I was under the impression that the beginning is the end of the film, was so open that I ended up leaving that question.
    Full Review »
  3. Sep 17, 2011
    The circumstances which the two girls in Circumstance find themselves struggling against are those created by the oppressive IranianThe circumstances which the two girls in Circumstance find themselves struggling against are those created by the oppressive Iranian theocracy. Every single thing which they want to do as teenagers is deemed illegal by the ruling mullahs and enforced by the corrupt morality police. To circumvent the rules, they use secret code words and signals to sneak into underground parties where there is dancing between the sexes, drinking, and some recreational drug use. To add even more danger to their escapades, the girls, who are best friends, discover they are falling in love with each other which could destroy not own their own, but their familyâ Full Review »