An emotionally broken woman, Kathy, suddenly finds herself homeless after her house is wrongly repossessed and auctioned. Seeking respite from his marriage, Lester, a sympathetic sheriff's deputy comes to the aid of Kathy and becomes intimately involved in her situation. Soon, Behrani, a proud emigrant Iranian and his family move into the house only to find their new lives burdened by harassment from Lester and Kathy as they attempt to reclaim her former home. The once prosperous colonel denies Kathy's pleas for he knows his recent purchase promises a profitable return and a better future for his adolescent son and his wife. But latent consequences lie beneath Behrani's well intentioned plan as Kathy's emotions spiral out of control and her actions spark a tragic chain of events that will leave no resident unscathed in the House of Sand and Fog. Written by
"House of Sand and Fog" is by far the finest film I've seen this year, and probably the best I've seen since the dial turned from the 1990's into the new millennium.
Vadim Perelman makes a movie so astoundingly beautiful that one has to think he's been doing this for years, but this is his first film. Set in a fog-drenched Southern California community, Perelman sets two immoveable forces apart from each other -- Cathy, a recovering alcoholic burdened by the memory of her late father, still trying to prove that she is a responsible person in his eyes, and Behrani, a colonel driven out of Iran with his family and desperately trying to maintain a life of stability and promise. In these two roles, Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley give steely performances, each presenting troubled souls trapped within stubborn facades. Connelly once again gives a masterful performance, balancing a reckless sensuality with the desire to find acceptance and love within anything, even a house where the memories have become so painful that the mail becomes too much to take.
Kingsley, of course, is perfect. The subtleties of his facial expressions when presented with moments of joy and frustration are masterfully restrained. This is his best performance of his illustrious career.
When Kingsley and Connelly finally clash, halfway through the movie, the movie, having until then been a paean to silence and unspoken loyalties, becomes a terrifying thriller, riveting everyone with whom I saw the picture. Perelman moves from a mood piece to a suspenseful drama effortlessly. A jaw-dropping conclusion completes a powerful, unbelievably sad piece of work.
After a couple years of not finding a movie that stirred me, this is it, what we all look for in movies -- a harrowing story, beautifully filmed, cathartic and elegant. Joy is very difficult to spot in the film, but "House of Sand and Fog" provides the joy we get when being moved to powerful emotions by a wonderful symphony.
My best film of 2003 -- unquestionably 10/10.
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