An Afghan refugee (Dominic Rains) who has found asylum in a small Northern California town gets caught up in backwoods crime in this intriguingly moody, slow-burning mystery thriller.

Back in Afghanistan, Rains was a fixer and interpreter, translating the local culture for an American correspondent (Thomas Jay Ryan). Now he is living as the guest of Ryan’s weary police officer mom (a typically superb Melissa Leo) and is very much a fish out of water.

At home, he was an expert at reading sometimes dangerous signals, but in the US he finds himself increasingly flummoxed by his new environment, both when it comes to jobs and his love life, with a free-spirited actress (Rachel Brosnahan) giving him mixed signals.

However, his chronic bafflement looks as though it will lead him into real trouble after he takes it on himself to solve a hit-and-run death, a crime that appears to involve his shiftless new pal, played with flamboyant eccentricity by James Franco.

The film frustratingly leaves loose ends dangling, as  director Ian Olds is really more interested in the local characters rather than the mystery, whether provided by Brosnahan’s wacky troupe of avant-garde actors or the furtive neighbourhood crime family. However, Rains’ wide-eyed encounters with his strange new world keeps us engaged to the end.