House of Sand and Fog (2003)
A Film Review
Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005
It is estimated that average American changes home at least three times during his lifetime. Under such circumstances it is difficult to imagine people getting emotionally attached to real estate, at least not in a way people in
The plot, based on the best-selling novel by Andre Dubus III, starts with Kathy Nicolo (played by Jennifer Connelly), recovering alcoholic whose husband left her eight months ago. Because of that she was so depressed that she didn’t open her mail, and when the tax authorities evict her from her
There are few films that depend so much on acting as HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG does. First time director Vadim Perelman did very good job and had excellent collaborators in veteran composer James Horner and veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins. But the real treasure of this film can be found in actors. Shoreh Aghdashloo, Iranian actress who had to quit her career because of Islamic Revolution, brings a lot of her own experience to the role and makes the character of Nadi, seemingly the least important of them all, into one of one the most memorable. Her “Oscar” nomination for that role was quite justified. Her efforts were well-matched by two previous “Oscar” winners in the roles of main adversaries. Jennifer Connelly tries very hard and mostly succeeds in making blue-collar heroine likeable to the audience despite most of them not being sympathetic to her lost (and ultimately unjust) cause. Kingsley is even more effective in the role that requires him to switch between family tyrant, loving father and husband, hard-working immigrant, social hypocrite and pathetic wreck.
Great acting aside, HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG is very good, but not great film. While the plot rested on sound foundations of gritty realism, its tragic resolution depends too much on the all-too-convenient twists and characters acting in the most stupid ways imaginable. But the biggest problem is in its lack of the very objectivity Perelman tried to achieve. Through suggestive editing Perelman tries to paint Kathy and Bahrani as two sides of the same coins – two people who try to pursue the very same American Dream and who lay the very same claim on life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, it isn’t very hard for the audience to completely take the side of Bahrani. On one side there is a dedicated family man who endured the lifetime of hardship and humiliation in order to provide decent future for his loved ones. On the other side is someone who wasted her life through addiction and self-pity. For overwhelming majority of the audience taking sides among two main protagonists isn’t the much of a choice.
There are some critics who view HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG as a some sort of allegoric comment on recent events. Scenes in which Bahranis – Middle Eastern immigrants - are mistreated by Lester – representative of American law enforcement – can be put in the context of the abuses in
Even with contemporary politics put aside and with many of its flaws taken into account, HOUSE OF SAND A FOG is an intense, thought-provoking movie experience.
RATING: 7/10 (+++)