It’s as if everything about the film, except its good-looking visuals, is slightly out of focus. If you do see this, two things will happen: You’ll come out in a daze, and you’ll give pause to any future film that wins the Sundance Audience Award.

It must be a great honor to win the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, but it doesn’t necessarily mean your movie is going to be a success.


Recent winners include “Two Family House,” “The Wackness” and “happythankyoumoreplease.” Ever hear of any of those? Well, be prepared to hear of –– and then forget about –– this year’s winner, too.


“Circumstance,” from first-time Iranian filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz, badly suffers from what afflicts so many first films: Keshavarz assumes that viewers know as much as she does about something that she’s obviously very passionate about.


Unfortunately, in this case, the subject is contemporary Iran, as well as the country’s history and culture, and how an Iranian citizen who has the audacity to lean toward Western thoughts can easily be made a pariah.


These are issues that we don’t generally read about in newspapers, and though American film audiences are usually fine with rooting for the underdog, it’s difficult to begin to even care about the two major characters in “Circumstance.”


Sixteen-year-old Shireen (Sarah Kazemy) is called to the headmaster’s office at school because her tuition is late again. She lives with her uncle on the poor side of town. There were apparently some governmental hassles with her parents, and they’re no longer around. Her best friend, Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri), comes from a well-off family. Her parents are scholarly types, and their home is filled with classical music and nice things. But the government doesn’t like them much, either.


One day, Atafeh’s older brother, Mehran (Reza Sixo Safai), returns home after being away for some time.


“Are you feeling better?” asks Mom, likely referring to a drug problem. He says yes.


“Do you want a job teaching music?” asks dad. He says no.


It seems that there are more important things for Mehran to do now, since he’s found religion. Things like walking around in a bad mood, things like having racy dreams involving himself and his sister, things like secretly setting up a surveillance system in the family home and spying on everyone.


But the film isn’t about Mehran; it’s about Shireen and Atafeh. And this is where the confusion starts. They’re presented as nice people who are experimenting at being rebellious teens. At the film’s start, you might think that they’re sisters, but it’s established pretty quickly that they’re just friends. And it’s hinted shortly after that they might be more than friends and that they’re thinking about being lovers.


Then, not so smoothly, they’re hanging out with two obviously gay men, playing with the idea of dubbing the gay-themed film “Milk” into –– I think –– Farsi.


What is the purpose? It’s never explained. Why does a cab driver later pick up Shireen and accuse her of being a harlot? It’s never explained. Why does Mehran turn into a police informant? It’s never explained.


Lots of things happen in this movie, but very few of them come along with reasons or explanations. There’s supposedly some message about freedom in the midst of it all, but it’s likely that only the writer-director can find it.


It’s as if everything about the film, except its good-looking visuals, is slightly out of focus. If you do see this, two things will happen: You’ll come out in a daze, and you’ll give pause to any future film that wins the Sundance Audience Award.


CIRCUMSTANCE (Rated R for sexual content, language, drug use.) Written and directed by Maryam Keshavarz. With Nikohl Boosheri, Sarah Kazerny, Reza Sixo Safai.  1 star.