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HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG

A woman ditched by her husband loses emotional control and allows her home in the California hills to slip into foreclosure. When the house is purchased by a former Iranian air force colonel, she decides she’ll do whatever is necessary to get it back.

CAST: Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ron Eldard, Jonathan Ahdout, Ashley Edner, Frances Fisher, Kia Jam, Navi Rawat

DIRECTOR: Vadim Perelman


"T
he actors in ‘House of Sand and Fog’ infuse this story of a real-estate war over an auctioned house with a seismic power that goes beyond the writing and the imagery. When your mind objects to the rigging of the plot and a climactic avalanche of melodrama, the performers' intensity and passion still cut you to the quick…Kingsley makes you see the valor of the colonel's masculine urge to control and the pride that comes before a fall worse than anything he could have expected. Into an ending that could have been an unrelieved (and unearned) downer, he breathes the cleansing force of emotional release." --Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun

"At the heart of the harrowing ‘House of Sand and Fog’ is a battle over the ownership of a house…Vadim Perelman's film elicits our sympathy, as well as our wariness, for both dispossessed protagonists. Kingsley conveys the violence lurking beneath Behrani's hatchet-sharp will. Connelly captures Kathy's unnerving volatility....The climax is a tragic pileup so appalling that it nearly derails the movie. Novelist Andre Dubus's plotting may be too much for a two-hour movie. But the story's details feel fresh. The vivid clarity of the images, the compressed fury of the tale, are impossible to get out of your head." --David Ansen, Newsweek

"The film, directed by Vadim Perelman from a script he wrote with Shawn Otto, is an alarmingly resonant piece of work, and there is much in it to brood on. It's also one of the most unpleasant experiences I've had at a film in ages…It engages your hatred, your anger, and your lust for vigilante vengeance. Then it shows the tragic consequences of that vengeance when the people are neither entirely good nor entirely bad…As the stakes are ratcheted up, ‘House of Sand and Fog’ becomes ludicrously grim…This is a movie that sends you out shuddering, chuckling nervously, wanting to tell the people in line for the next show, ‘It's the feel-bad movie of the year!’" --David Edelstein, Slate

"Before it runs off course into excess, this brilliantly acted film version of the 1999 novel by Andre Dubus III moves with a stabbing urgency. Ben Kingsley gives one of his greatest performances as Behrani, a former colonel in the air force of the Shah of Iran. Now living in Northern California, where he supports his wife, Nadi (Shohreh Aghdashloo, shown at right), and their teenage son, Esmail (Jonathan Ahdout), by doing menial jobs…Aghdashloo, an Iranian actress, has a face of elegant beauty on which emotions register with startling expressiveness. She is spellbinding, whether serving tea or struggling to stop her world from falling apart. This is acting that cuts quietly to the heart…Prepare for an emotional wipeout." --Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"Here is a film that seizes us with its first scene and never lets go, and we feel sympathy all the way through for everyone in it. To be sure, they sometimes do bad things, but the movie understands them and their flaws. Like great fiction, ‘House of Sand and Fog’ sees into the hearts of its characters, and loves and pities them…At every step, we feel we are seeing what could and would naturally happen next -- not because of coincidence or contrivance, but because of the natures of the people involved." --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"Like ‘Antigone,’ it is the story of two rights adding up to a monstrous wrong. There are no clear villains, no serendipitous, life-altering accidents, only the slow, inexorable escalation of hasty decisions and excusable lapses in judgment toward an unbearable final catastrophe…And every stage of its escalation seems determined less by the psychology of the characters than by the forced, schematic logic of the story. You feel the heavy, implacable force of the narrative without quite believing it." --A.O. Scott, The New York Times

" ‘House of Sand and Fog’ is a gloomfest from first to last…There’s something bullying about the film’s determinism—Perelman, taking his cue from Dubus, offers the audience no light, no hope. But at least he doesn’t villainize his characters—both Kathy and Behrani, in their own ways, are in the right—and the performances are amazing… Kingsley is most impressive of all… His pride has pathos, and in the end, when he wails to bring back a wounded loved one, the full tragedy of what he has undergone hits us like a punch in the stomach." --Peter Rainer, New York Magazine

"‘House of Sand and Fog’ has the veneer of quality, a studied precision in its cinematography and a narrative sprawl that suggest a film of importance…There's a dignity about it, and it's only later that we come to realize that this dignity is misplaced, born of a fatal reserve and a lack of complete investment…the film is intended as a look at what property and its pursuit can do to people, but its treatment of the subject is clinical. Thus, when extreme events finally do occur, they don't seem to follow naturally from what has gone before but arrive out of nowhere as random occurrences of fate. The audience watches them at a remove, their impact diminished." --Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

"The movie's intense watchability can be traced directly to superb performances by Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley…Even though the movie's climax and aftermath might induce you to reject the film, slump into abject despair or even laugh just for some nervous relief, you cannot be unmoved by the sight of a man watching his dreams crumble before him. It is, after all, a classic American tragedy." --Desson Thomson, The Washington Post

"…brilliantly acted, remarkable directing debut by the Ukrainian-born commercial and music-video veteran Vadim Perelman…The tragedies escalate into an almost unbearably sad -- if somewhat improbable -- conclusion, but there's an uncommon subtlety in the storytelling and acting…‘House of Sand and Fog’ is a grim, challenging movie that will amply reward audiences willing to go along with its ride into the dark depths of its characters' souls." --Lou Lumenick, The New York Post

"It is a fascinating film, handsomely adapted from the book and well directed. The socked-in fogginess of the Northern California coastal setting enhances the film's moodiness. There is scarcely a glint of hope in this somber tale, but the luminous performances of Kingsley, Aghdashloo and Ahdout light up the darkness." --Claudia Puig, USA Today

"It's a sad, rich story, full of misunderstandings, bad bargains, odd parallels. First-time director Vadim Perelman coddles terrific acting out of Ben Kingsley, who creates a complex portrait of an imperious man on his way down the social ladder. Jennifer Connelly gives an emotional bird-with-broken-wing performance. Detracting somewhat is that the characters' need for the house does not come through here with the clarity presented by the book." --Jami Bernard, The New York Daily News

''‘House of Sand and Fog'’ has its pretensions, but mostly it's a vigorous and bracingly acted melodrama spun off from a situation that's pure human-thriller catnip…Kingsley, carrying his body like armor, sculpting each line into a bitter dart of pride, plays fierceness with a powerful tug of sorrow…For most of ‘House of Sand and Fog,’ morality and suspense become one, though I do wish that the movie didn't spiral into the most shocking of tragedies. Just because a scenario turns dark doesn't mean that it's convincing. ‘House of Sand and Fog’ is artful until it lunges for Art." --Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly