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House of Sand and Fog
House Of Sand And Fog (DVD)
Member Name: goldenbat666
House Of Sand And Fog (DVD)
Advantages: Faultless performances from everyone in the cast, strong narrative that always stays neutral
Disadvantages: Depressing and a little slow at times
"House of Sand and Fog" is a film that captivates the audience and remains intriguing because of a simple reason that it never takes sides. By continuing to have a solidly neutral tone that never favours one side over the other, the final emotional punch is far more effective, since we hear both sides to a very complicated story, with incredibly deep insight into the various characters tangled up in one complex situation. There is plenty of opportunity for the film to sway, using racism, sexism or other isms to root for one side. But director Vadim Perelman never falls into the trap of showing someone more sympathy or compassion than he/she really deserves. It never praises nor does it ever condemn the character's choices; it portrays them as they are, as imperfect human beings who are capable of making mistakes, and humans who are flawed. We are never forced to agree with them, but it gives us the chance to understand them: what makes them so driven and desperate. And it asks the question, how much are we willing to sacrifice for our desires and ambitions? How far do we go to see justice served?
A real-estate error is exploded out of proportion when a series of misunderstandings overturn the living situations of several key characters. Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly) is going through a rough period - she has been abandoned by her husband and she is a depressed individual, with no passion or urge to go on in life. She has been ignoring several notices informing her of an imminent eviction, something to do with her failing to pay business taxes. A massive mix-up for sure, since Kathy in fact owes nothing to the government. Her property is wrestled away from her and within a few seconds, Kathy is left homeless. Massoud Behrani (Ben Kingsley) is a family man and a man of dreams. He wants to provide for his wife Nadereh (Shoreh Aghdashloo) and his son Esmail (Jonathan Ahdout). Ever since his family left Iran, he gave up his job as a colonel in the Iranian Army, and his reputation to live in San Francisco. He has been saving up for his family with his many insignificant jobs and one day he stumbles upon an auction for Kathy's house. Purchasing the house for a very cheap price, a quarter of its original price to be exact, he wishes to renovate it to sell it off for a much larger profit. So this means war - since Kathy wants her house back, which was rightfully hers from the start and Massoud will do anything to protect his family's future and wants nothing to do with this head-spinning situation that occurred through absolutely no fault of his own.
Should Kathy be penalised for ignoring those notices? They should not have been in her house in the first place so to be fair, the government is to blame for all this mess. Should we hate Massoud for wanting to seize what he views as rightfully his? He purchased the house, grabbed himself a bargain and a huge investment, something that cannot come around very often and so why should he want to let go? Just because the government made a huge error, he should give up on his dreams? It's difficult to decide who should ultimately get the house and to win, both sides resort to confrontation, intimidation and manipulation. Help is at hand for Kathy though, as Deputy Sheriff Lester Burdon (Ron Eldard), obviously acting on his feelings towards Kathy, starts providing support. The two share an intimate relationship, fuelling passion and overwhelming emotions that lead to an unexpected and rash decision. Like they say, love is blind.
Whenever the characters from both sides face each other, it always leads to an intense scene. Connelly beautifully portrays the infinite amount of her character's personal struggles, the weak and vulnerable woman whose house meant everything to her. Kingsley approaches his role with a threatening tone, as the stubborn family man with strict, narrow-minded ideals. On the other hand his wife Nadereh is the quieter, often soft-spoken person in the family who respects, but not always agrees with, her husband. Aghdashloo makes a stellar Hollywood debut with her stunning performance. When she's the repressed housewife, she offers a quieter, much calmer counterpart to Massoud's often fiery temper but she's not the type who always sits by - she does occasionally explode with a long, dizzyingly rapid monologue which mixes a hefty amount of both Iranian and English.
Tragedy ensues as so many characters fall apart and if you're looking for an uplifting film, stay well away from this one: a film that shows the downfalls of human beings all too well and clearly. Anchored by exceptional performances, "House of Sand and Fog" is an engrossing story of how something that seemed so small and trivial at the beginning can in fact turn into a total meltdown for the simple reason that people were careless. The ending is beyond powerful and packs in the emotional blast to its maximum potential. Some viewers will strongly agree with one side and be furious at the other. Supporting the Behrani family will have you complaining about the whiny, helpless Kathy, whereas supporting Kathy will no doubt arouse anger at the blatant injustice and general stubbornness of Massoud. But always remember to be open-minded and patient with the characters. After all, isn't that the lesson this film is trying to teach us?
Summary: An incredibly moving, tragic and compelling story adapted brilliantly to the screen