Tuesday, 6 August 2013

House of Sand and Fog (2003) - ★★★½

Director: Vadim Perelman
Writers: Andre Dubus III (Novel), Vadim Perelman, Shawn Lawrence Otto
Stars: Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ron Eldard, Frances Fisher, Jonathan Ahdout, Kim Dickens

House of Sand and Fog is a very good movie. The story is interesting, and the performances are really touching. It's frustrating, because it's one of those films that make you watch an impossible situation unfurl into a catastrophe. I didn't particularly find it effective, or 'great' in a sense. I'm kind of on the fence with this one, because I know that it's a good movie, but it didn't really get to me. At times I feel a bit 'eh' when I think of this film, but then I remember Ben Kingsley and Shohreh Aghdashloo's performance, which instantly raises it in my esteem.

Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) gets her house taken off her by the city council because of a misunderstanding in regards to unpaid bills. Lickety-split, they auction the house to a struggling Iranian man who wants to give his family the lavish life they had back in Iran. He already renovates the house and raises its value, which means he can sell it for three times the amount he paid. The problem is, Kathy has nowhere to stay and the house means the world to her. I felt sorry for both Kathy and the Iranian family, because it's one of those situations where someone is bound to lose.

Shohreh Aghdashloo gave the most sympathetic performance.
Ben Kingsley gave one of his greatest performances as Behrani, a former Iranian general. I believe they had to flee Iran, and came to America with little money. There's one scene later in the film that made my jaw-drop. It involves Behrani and his son (I can't give too much away). Kingsley's acting was phenomenal here... all I can say is that it trumps Sean Penn's Oscar winning performance in Mystic River, which won the very same year. Shohreh Aghdashloo played the wife of Behrani, and she managed to evoke a huge amount of sympathy from me. Her performance was very 'human,' which made it impossible for me to side with Kathy or Behrani. 

Jennifer Connelly was brilliant as usual. I say 'usual' because she played a character that is oddly similar to the ones she has played before. Her performance reminded me a lot of her Oscar winning role in A Beautiful Mind, but her character was almost as pathetic as the one she played in Requiem for a Dream. I'm just saying that she was good, but she didn't blow me away this time.

As far as I could tell, the cinematography was sound. There was nothing particularly memorable about it, so I can't really comment on the quality. The same goes for the score by James Horner, which was nominated for an Oscar. Everything was very simple, which did suit the story. BUT, nothing really wowed me. There were no clear moments of masterful film-making here, just the run-of-the-mill dramatic conventions.

The greatest thing about House of Sand and Fog is definitely the performances of Kingsley and Aghdashloo. The story could have been told in a more effective, tear-jerking way in my opinion. The most important thing to know is that it's a very good film. I could go on about the way it displays the struggle of immigrants trying to make a life in the US and blah blah, but all I really want to say is how I feel about this movie. I think I've done that.


  1. It's been a while since I have seen this movie but I agree with your thoughts about how someone is bound to loose. What I liked best about this movie is that it never chooses a side. Both Kingsley and Connelly's characters are both right in ways and wrong in many ways too. Each of them have a lot to loose if either of them dont get their way. Its a powerful movie and Im glad you saw it

    1. I liked that it didn't take sides too. We got to see both sides of the story, and the rights and wrongs of both characters. We couldn't possibly choose a side, it was just a fucked up situation. That's what is masterful about this film.