It’s the bright summer of 1976, and the whole population of Sunbeam Township, a small Michigan suburb, is gearing up for their Bicentennial Fair. Rama Chandra, a teenage Arabic refugee, moves with his family into this sleepy little community shortly before the celebration. While visiting the local high school, he runs across Bess Hawkins, an orphaned student who’s under the custody of her uncle, Jason Trask, the richest man in town. An outspoken feminist, Bess is routinely bullied by everyone at school because of her views. Her chief tormentors are Jason’s own children, Loretta and Brad Trask, who browbeat the girl constantly. Rama, who’d been tortured in the Middle East, has intense sympathy for Bess and determines to rescue her from such mistreatment.
Spotting a bruise on her cheek one day, Rama suspects she is being beaten by her family. That night, after Jason leaves on a business trip, Rama breaks into the Trask mansion, tosses Bess over his shoulder, and carries her off to his estate in the countryside. There, under the watchful eyes of Rama’s grandmother and sister, love blossoms between him and Bess.
Rama learns that it was Jason himself who’d beaten Bess. Eventually her uncle returns to Sunbeam Township and finds out where Bess is hiding. Jason immediately demands that the local police arrest Rama. This leads to a showdown that teaches everyone in town the true meaning of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.