33 user 16 critic

House of Cards (1993)

PG-13 | | Drama | 25 June 1993 (USA)
When Ruth Matthews's husband is killed in a fall at an archaeological dig, her daughter Sally handles her father's death in a very odd manner. As Sally's condition worsens, Ruth takes her ... See full summary »



(story), (story) | 1 more credit »

On Disc

at Amazon

2 wins. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Ruth Matthews
Jake Beerlander
Sally Matthews
Michael Matthews
Lillian Huber
Anne Pitoniak ...
Jacqueline Cassell ...
Gloria Miller (as Jacqueline Cassel)
John Henderson ...
Bart Huber
Craig Fuller ...
Ray Huber
Rick Marshall ...
Frank Stearson
Reuben Valiquette Murray ...
Emily Russell ...


When Ruth Matthews's husband is killed in a fall at an archaeological dig, her daughter Sally handles her father's death in a very odd manner. As Sally's condition worsens, Ruth takes her to see Jake, an expert in childhood autism. Jake attempts to bring Sally out of her mental disarray through traditional therapy methods, but Ruth takes a different route. She risks her own sanity by attempting to enter her daughter's mind and make sense of the seemingly bizarre things that Sally does, including building a wondrous house of cards. Written by Kathy Li

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Journey That Will Open Your Mind... And Touch Your Heart.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for theme | See all certifications »





Release Date:

25 June 1993 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Before I Wake  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$322,871 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


James Horner's original score is based on his score for the film Where the River Runs Black (1986) also a film that involves a child in it's storyline. Intrada Records released a limited edition soundtrack which instantly sold out in a record amount of hours, such as their release of Michael Small's unused score for The China Syndrome (1979) had done previously. See more »


When Ruth scans in the pictures of Sally's house of cards to the computer, the photos are black and white, but in the virtual reality model, they are color. See more »


Jake Beerlander: [as he taps on Sally's shoulder] Hey, what's your name?
Sally Matthews: Sally, what's yours?
Jake Beerlander: Jake.
Sally Matthews: [Pointing at Jake's shirt] Dirty shirt, Jake...
See more »

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User Reviews

autistic or artistic?
3 March 2002 | by (walnut grove/ca) – See all my reviews

I find myself wanting to criticise, negatively, a number of plot elements in this story of a traumatized young girl and her distressed mother. But in fact I found myself following the story, the characters, and the outcome (no spoilers here, I hope) with my whole heart. So much depends on the core problem: how to diagnose and treat the special little girl. Is she autistic (the onset brought about by the trauma of witnessing the death by falling of her father,) whatever autism is? Is she a specially endowed child who's gifts have been fostered by the nice Latino man/shaman (not a formal shaman, but a very wise and creative man?) Is her Mom--who often appears to be a traumatized and misbegotten for the same reasons as her daughter--way misguided and herself suspect in the sanity area? As I said, I was beguiled by the performance of the little girl, and her mother, and even the off-again-on-again caring, sensitive therapist, Tommy Lee Jones. The little girl drifts off into never never land, but seems very connected with everyday surroundings, perseverates, reacts to appearances which do not fit her apparent obsessions. The good doctor diagnoses autism--a convenient peg to hang one's professional hat. But is the mother, an architect and seer in her own right--and also a very emotional and volatile individual--on the right track as seeing her daughter as working out a mourning ritual, a metaphysical journey (sending her father to the moon and to the afterlife, say)? I found nothing inconsistent with this conflict--the metaphysical vs the "medical"--or the way it developes and resolves in this film. I found it possible to sympathise with the efforts of the medical team, and I found it sort of exiting to follow the intuitive machinations of the brave and stubborn mother who was willing to go the limit for her child. Without revealing the outcome, I must say that the ultimate resolution and catharsis, if I may say, is satisfying without being excessively contrived or sentimental (The stairway to the stars project was, too, appropriate and effective, to my mind. It can't hurt anybody to hear the message that sometimes medical judgements are possibly premature, shortsighted, and lacking in creative judgement. An engaging film. Six plus from jaime.

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