Projections - Movie Reviews

House of Sand and Fog
House of Sand and Fog
Starring Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Connelly, Ron Eldard,
Frances Fisher, Kim Dickens, Shohreh Aghdashloo

Rated R - for some violence/disturbing images, language and a scene of sexuality
Reviewed by: Jim
Release Date: December 26, 2003 Released by: DreamWorks SKG

The importance of a property that is vital in different ways to two people, makes for some formidable conflict in the vividly acted, ultimately suffocating tragedy, House of Sand and Fog.

This character-driven adaptation of Andre Dubus IIIs best seller allows one to experience what a bungalow sitting on a cliff overlooking the sea can do to characters like the ones played with force and power by Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley. The wistful novel unfolds with plenty of atmosphere and style.

Director Vadim Perelman creates a dramatic noir supported on elements of fear and tension following the genre when it comes to a lovely broken woman, a remote cabin, and unstable cop and a proud immigrant. The mirror images and smooth dialogue worked into the script in the adaptation by Perelman and Shawn Otto work to considerable effect before the viewer begins to be lead astray by a startling, moody turn of events.

Prior to learning of how the leads will be pitted against one another, Perelman sets up the story of Kingsley's Massoud Amir Behrani with much clarity. Once a colonel in the Shah of Iran's elite inner circle, Behrani left his country's Islamic revolution for a life where he pretends to be a rich man with a white-collar job. He is motivated by a wife (Shohreh Aghdashloo) endowed with passion and maternal devotion and a skate-boarding son (Jonathan Ahdout). He toils as a highway laborer and a gas station/convenience store attendant to meet the demands of his " living in the past" wife. An auction listing for a house may be the financial turnaround for his family, as he devises a plan to take his savings and use it to purchase property which he can resell at a substantial profit.

But, the symbolism burrowed in the film's title translates to how the bungalow and its inherited owner are in a similarly in neglected condition. That is Connelly's Kathy Nicolo, whose life has been nearly destroyed by drug and alcohol addiction and a husband who left her. She feels indebted to her father who took 30 years to pay off the home to leave it for her and her brother. Since being alone, she's hardly made an attempt to open her mail, and her static existence gets worse when she's about to be evicted for the accruement of back taxes. The Behranis have moved in before Kathy's able lawyer (Frances Fisher) can bring legal action against what turns out to be an improper seizure by the Pacific county.

The story unwinds emotionally as the enshrouded dream home becomes the downfall of the clandestine Kathy and Behrani with the desperate woman turning away from sobriety and toward a new lover, sheriff Lester (Ron Eldard).

Connelly has some fierce moments as a woman attempting to hold on, with the house an essential part of her world. Perhaps her most affecting moments play out as she broods soaking in a hot tub. And the ambitious, but heartbreaking rendering by Kingsley anchors House of Sand and Fog in a well-rounded depiction of a man once dreaming of life on the shores of the Caspian Sea with pine trees, coming to terms in tragedy with anguish and pride in a new land.

House of Sand and Fog

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