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House of Cards More at IMDbPro »

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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:


Author: Mel J from Dundee, Scotland
12 February 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Having seen 'House of Cards' a number of times now, I never fail to find this film a involving and intriguing on every viewing. The film revolves around the Ruth Matthews, whose husband dies in a fall and who risks also losing her six-year-old daughter Sally when she retreats into her own world falling the death of her father. As child psychologist Jake determines that the best way to treat Sally is to use therapies similar to how he counsels his autistic patients, Ruth resorts to more eccentric methods of reaching out to her daughter.

A number of people seem to dislike 'House of Cards' because they feel it portrays easy cures to autism. However, like other fans of the film, I never believed Sally was autistic but instead was deeply grief-stricken and mentally withdrew from the traumatic world around her, taking on autistic-like traits, so she could try to devise ways to contact her dead father. This theory meant that, for me, this film was not about autism but rather a family coping with loss and grief in different ways and that was what made it both touching and engaging.

The adult actors-- Kathleen Turner who played Ruth and Tommy Lee Jones who played Jake-- were both brilliant and you genuinely felt that they both loved this child and were determined to do to whatever it took to help her, albeit in different ways. However, it was the child actors who were truly excellent. For such a young child, Asha Menina was perfect in portraying Sally's emotional distance as she retreated into her own little world. And Shiloh Strong delivered a strong performance as Sally's teenage brother, who was fiercely devoted to his mother and sister and determined to be the man of the family.

This film truly succeeded in reminding us that young children can view death very differently from adults and in showing us that there tradition psychological treatments are not always right for everybody. Combined with the haunting soundtrack, 'House of Cards' is enjoyable and will keep you thinking.

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11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant story!

Author: ffeline from Eugene, OR
24 November 1999

This is one of the best movies I've seen and I'm shocked at the ratings it has received. I found it hidden in the back room at the video store because so few customers were checking it out. I agree that Tommy Lee Jones has been better in other movies but the story is excellent and the portrayal of the story is very well done. Please don't let the ratings keep you from deciding for yourself!

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A good-hearted movie that takes you beyond dreams.....

Author: bridget-amarant ( from phoenixville, pennsylvania, USA
15 January 2003

I absolutely loved this movie. It is so different than any other movie I've seen (and I've seen plenty!). People who commented on this movie say that its not reality-that they didn't go into certain aspects of the "problems" at hand in the movie...well, that's what movies are all about. They take you to a different dimension that's not of this world. And this movie deals with taking us to a different world of a child going into a different world. And that, everyone, is what it's all about. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who doesn't want to see the same storyline used in 90% of all movies today, with a touch of dreamscape, and a whole lot of heart. Tommy Lee Jones is perfect as usual, as well as Kathleen Turner. WATCH IT!

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

THE most fascinating film I've ever seen...

Author: chatangel from New Jersey - USA
8 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a multi-faceted story with so many nuances that it doesn't surprise me that so many people who watch it miss most of them.

While watching this on IFC (Independent Film Channel), I was perusing the user comments and wondering where I'd fit in, once I'd reached the end of the film. I don't fit anywhere, really. I knew from about 45 seconds into the film where this child was going (to the moon, for her father). Exactly 44 minutes into the film Ruth tells the doctor her daughter is NOT autistic. He says "No, she's not, but..." So you see never once is this child "diagnosed" autistic. Jake the doctor and Ruth the mother are seeking the same goal, from completely different points of reference. They are BOTH right - but in the end it's the mother (who is herself "special") who has the better instincts - and it's that wondrous architectural "House of Cards" that ultimately brings her daughter back.

Key scenes? There are so many I hesitate to list any of them, but here are a couple: The American Indian construction worker who "rescues" Sally from the beam (or whatever it's supposed to be) and communicates with her on some silent, almost mystical, level was beautiful to behold.

Sally's softball catch was a REAL clue, as was her retrieval of older brother Michael's plane from the roof and her foray back onto the roof for the softball. From her fearless internal world she was able to do what most of us cannot.

All of the actors were terrific, but I think Tommy Lee Jones' portrayal of the troubled doctor was superlative, as most of his portrayals are.

If you decide to give this film a shot - PLEASE - pay real attention to the details. Without them you'll never get "the point."

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11 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Good movie, but this is NOT autism

Author: piquichi from United States
11 March 2007

This movie is very interesting to watch and the characters are well-acted by Kathleen Turner and Tommy Lee Jones. The little girl is very convincing as well. It's a good movie, but people should know: this is not about autism.

I have an autistic daughter. Even in regressive autism, which is not that common, you don't just become autistic through emotional trauma, as this movie suggests. And you don't just stop talking one day. It's a progressive or, rather, regressive thing. And regressive autism takes place about age 2-3, not age 6. Her seeming imperviousness to danger is autistic-like and the screams when things change is something that can happen, but please don't come away from this movie thinking this is what autism is.

Many autistic children are not silent and do interact or try to. Take note of the scenes at the school with real autistic children to get a somewhat better picture.

This movie is more about emotional trauma than autism. Leading the viewer to believe otherwise is a tragic disservice. But what's worse is then leading the viewer to believe simple psychological intervention will "fix" autism.

The one good thing is that the movie shows autistics to be bright and very creative. If you want to learn something about autism, learn that.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Deep, if you're paying attention

Author: Tiffany from Denton, Texas
7 May 2003

Everyone I know thinks this movie is weird, until I make them rewatch the beginning and pay close attention. Then they love it.

Whoever trashed this movie regarding the autism obviously did not watch it. The child was NOT austistic. She was trying to handle her father's death with things she learned from her Mayan archaeologist friend.

I think if you have any brain in your head and have an attention span large enough to actually watch the whole movie, it is thoroughly enjoyable.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Spectacular yarn

Author: rystuff from Santa Cruz, CA
18 November 2002

I found the story engrossing and especially enjoyed how the characters put the pieces together as the movie progressed. I also thought parts of the soundtrack were excellent. There is one scene that has stayed with me years after I saw the flick.

This is not a documentary. One reason I rented the movie is my clinical experience with autistic children. If you are the kind of person who requires movies even tangentally reflect how it is in the real world then don't watch it. If you think Hollywood will educate the public about autism this movie will upset you.

This is a thinking person's movie.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

**Spoilers** Wonderful story, great cast.

Author: Morgaine Swann ( from United States
24 March 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

House of Cards is a really unusual story, and you have to really pay attention to understand what is going on. It juxtaposes modern medicine with Mayan ritual, but you have to listen to the conversations with the Mayan man and Sally (Asha Menina) to understand what she's going through. I'll try not to give too much away, but I have to talk about the ending because that is what is confusing people.

The movie begins with the father dying from a fall at an archaeological dig in South America. The little girl is only about 5, but she's multilingual, speaking Spanish and a native Mayan dialect fluently as well as English. We hear Sally's memories as narration, the Mayan man that she spent so much time with telling her how to become very quiet, how to deal with her grief, and that her father now lives on the moon. The family leaves for the States shortly after the father's death, so this little girl who has only really known the people at the site is taken from an extended support system to a rural American setting. Her mother and brother are so caught up in the move and their grief that they don't really notice Sally has stopped talking. As she begins to exhibit extraordinary powers like climbing and throwing or catching a ball with freakish ability, the brother notices but doesn't really tell their mom.

Sally's "symptoms" create concern in the local authorities when she climbs up building equipment trying to reach the moon, where she's been told her father is now. They only manage to get her down because the worker that goes after her is Native American and she trusts him. No one ever mentions this in the movie, but he's the only one she responds to during her mourning spell. A therapist who is assigned to deal with Sally and her family struggles to define the problems and the extreme gifts demonstrated by Sally. He's using modern techniques that are unable to reach the girl. Her behavior becomes more bizarre, and more beautiful, leaving him to struggle with the idea of whether we enter or withdraw from the world through creativity.

In the end, the mother, played by Kathleen Turner, follows her instinct and builds a tower based on the design of Sally's house of cards. No one connects the fact that Sally's structure ended with a Major Arcana Tarot card, The Moon, and that the tower appears to be directly under the moon, as in the card. The Native man from the construction site helps the mother, as do friends and family, though they don't understand what she's doing. When the tower nears completion, the mother falls asleep on it, and she connects with Sally in a dream. She's awakened by the doctor coming across the field, where he found Sally headed for the tower.

This is where most people get lost. Sally and her mother work the problem out on an inner plane. From the outside, they appear to just be staring at each other. On the inside, Sally is expressing her grief, says good bye to her daddy, and comes back to her mom. Once Sally lets go of her dad, she is back to normal. She has no memory of her "quiet" time.

Sally's journey is a vision quest, and her mother intuitively reaches her with a ritual based on the symbols Sally has been taught. No one in the movie understands how it happens or why, so if you aren't familiar with Native American spirituality, it won't make sense - though it is still poetic and beautiful, if you let go of trying to make it fit your expectations.

I highly recommend the movie, especially for family viewing.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

autistic or artistic?

Author: jaime engle ( from walnut grove/ca
3 March 2002

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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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Here, ordinary is extraordinary

Author: from United States
1 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILER ALERT****************************************** I actually don't know if I give away too much but I am putting the alert here just to be safe.

As a mom of a little boy with autism, I was drawn to this movie and come back again from time to time. I always cry at the end knowing that is not a reality for families with autism but wishing it could be. The school where the doctor teaches other kids is the reality I know. And the line (forgive me if it is not exact), "Here, ordinary is extraordinary" is something I think only families dealing with autism truly understand. My son and I have been working with specialists since he was just over a year old. And at 3 years and 9 months, I got my first, self-initiated "Mommy, I need a kiss." I cried with joy for days. He expressed an emotional need, self-initiated it, and said it in a sentence! You can tell when you meet people new to my son and they get so excited about the extraordinary things he can do. But like in this movie when you look at the parents and teachers working so hard, it is on the little things you take for granted. Don't get me wrong. We love the extraordinary things that make our children so special and fascinating. But when the ordinary things happen like the boy at the school hugging his mom for the first time, that is when we parents shout for joy and hoot and holler in celebration.

Dealing with a child with autism is like putting together a giant puzzle with infinite pieces. If you like the thrill of figuring things out, then it is great because the puzzle never just develops into a clearer picture the more you can fit things together. And since the number of pieces are infinite, you don't get a neat little picture on the box that lets you know exactly how things should look and you work towards that. Nope, that kind of puzzle is for amateurs. With autism, you study the pieces as they fit together and learn how they relate to one another and get glimpses of what a bigger picture may look like. But you know at any time one section of the puzzle may elude you completely while another section starts coming together quickly, making sense out of the patterns. And what you get is an ever-growing and changing picture of who that child is.

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