Though it will likely be considered during the upcoming awards
season, “House of Sand and Fog” will not make all
theater patrons happy. Almost as bleak as it is tragic, the film is
a powerful but depressing account of a conflict over a simple,
run-down San Francisco home.

Mira Levitan
No means no. (Courtesy of Dreamworks)
Mira Levitan
No, I will not make out with you. (Courtesy of Dreamworks)

Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly, “Hulk”) is a
recovering drug addict, living alone in her deceased father’s
home. A mistake by the county leads to her eviction, after which
the house is put up for auction. Massoud Behrani (Ben Kingsley,
“Sexy Beast”), a former colonel in the Shah’s
Iranian army, buys the home as an investment to help support his
struggling family. Lester (Ron Eldard, “Black Hawk
Down”), a seemingly normal police officer, befriends Cathy
and attempts to help her reclaim her home. Pleading becomes
harassment, and the characters are drawn into a devastating
conflict.

Throughout “House of Sand and Fog” the characters
are flawed, yet ordinary. At first, they act in a reasonable,
seemingly appropriate manner and come across as rather normal. The
amazing aspect of this story is the way in which their actions lead
to unimaginable horrors. One can see the tragedy approaching, but
the story forces viewers to ponder its exact causes.

The conflict gradually escalates and is both haunting and
compelling, simultaneously. This part of the story is also
augmented by director Vadim Perelman’s alternation between
gritty, real scenes and dream like images of the fog and the house.
This cinematography conveys the power of the story while not
compromising the film’s realism.

Terrific performances from the cast, Kingsley in particular,
also add to the compelling nature of “House of Sand and
Fog.” Massoud’s interactions with his son define the
character and Kingsley executes these scenes perfectly.

Its heartbreaking nature becomes the only drawback to
“House of Sand and Fog.” The tragedy is so complete
that it detracts from one’s enjoyment of the film.

However, one can derive pleasure from sad films, and there is
plenty to adhere to in “House of Sand and Fog.” It
plays out almost like a Greek tragedy, with the small, common
faults of each character leading to the catastrophic battle of
wills. Just as one can take pleasure in reading
“Antigone,” one can enjoy this movie by reflecting on
the characters’ flaws, and their ultimate culmination.

Rating: 4 stars.

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