Banned in Iran, Jafar Panahi's THE CIRCLE is set almost entirely on the busy streets of Tehran - a place where women are restricted by numerous laws, including a repressive dress code, and can only travel accompanied by a man. The beginning of the film focuses on two women, Arezou (Mariam Palvin Almani) and Nargess (Nargess Mamizadeh), who have been given temporary leave from prison and have no intension of returning. They attempt to flee to Nargess's hometown, which she claims is as beautiful as a Van Gogh painting, but are deterred by police. Meanwhile, their friend Pari (Fereshteh Sadr Orfani), who has just escaped from jail, is pregnant and needs an abortion. Panahi's lens continues to shift from one woman to another as this eye-opening tale circles back on itself.
More serious in tone than the director's brilliant, lighthearted debut, THE WHITE BALLOON, THE CIRCLE shares many of its technical and narrative flourishes, making it another example of Iranian cinema at its best and most politically aware.