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A wrecked marriage and drinking problems behind her, Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly) inherits her father's house in the Bay Area of San Francisco but soon loses it when former Iranian army Colonel Behrani (Ben Kingsley) buys it for a pittance from the local council which, in a bureaucratic bungle, confiscated it. Behrani moves in, refurbishes, and plans to use it as the first rung on the home-ownership ladder, as he and his long-suffering wife (Shohreh Aghdashloo) aspire to the higher social standing they once enjoyed in Iran, but have since only dreamt about. Kathy and Behrani are each adamant to win the ensuing battle. Local cop Lester Burdon (Ron Eldard), with kindness and/or lust in his heart, takes to Kathy's cause, leaves his wife and tries to be a single handed arm of justice, as he sees it, with terrible consequences.

Review by Louise Keller:
A fiercely powerful and melancholy tale about dreams, aspirations and belonging, House of Sand and Fog is a marvellous adaptation. The catalyst for the two separate stories about two very different people whose lives intersect, is a house. It may only be a rather ordinary looking house shrouded by a perpetual mist that boasts a small ocean view, but it's what it symbolises to both Colonel Behrani and Kathy Nicolo that makes it so special.

Russian born director / screenwriter Vadim Perelman makes a spectacular directing debut, adapting Andre Dubus III's international bestseller in such a way that it completely retains the integrity of the novel. And that's not an easy achievement for a novel that is told through the eyes and perspectives of both key characters.

The film introduces us to the characters and their predicaments by juxtaposition, jerking us from one reality to another in quick succession. This, in itself sets up tension, escalating slowly and surely until it screams with no mercy into its shattering conclusion. Ben Kingsley was always in the author's mind as he wrote the character of Colonel Behrani, and there is no doubt he was born to play the role of the proud Iranian immigrant forced to resort to menial work to support his family. Kingsley's performance is flawless, delivering the kind of complexity that on one hand effects loathing, but on another promotes the most overwhelming heartbreak and compassion. From the profound sadness in his eyes as he farewells his daughter at her wedding, to the steely harshness that results in physical violence, Kingsley takes us on a devastating emotional journey. 'A father can dream,' he muses. To Behrani, the house is the symbol of his dreams: the home to replace the one lost in his homeland and the pivot to unify his family.

To Jennifer Connelly's emotionally barren Kathy, the house symbolises stability and the family she no longer has. Connelly imbues this lost character with such tenacity that we feel giddy. The entire cast is superb, but special mention goes to Iranian stage and screen star Shohreh Aghdashloo, whose subservient, compassionate wife evokes a spontaneous response every time she appears on screen. House of Sand and Fog is melancholy at its most potent. Every ingredient contributes to the mix: James Horner's subdued yet piercing score, Roger Deakins' wonderful cinematography (I love the way the scene is shot as Behrani's son cowers under the bed covers, intent on avoiding a confrontation with his father), and the effective contrast of styles of Kathy's nomadic life with the elaborate and formal ornateness of the Behrani's.

Passion simmers relentlessly under the surface and as the detonation of the climax begins, there is enough emotional torment to tear your heart out. A haunting and potent film not to be missed.

Shohreh Aghdashloo’s six minute audition in two languages is a highlight of the DVD, displaying the full extent of this extraordinary actress’s abilities. There’s a director’s commentary, photo gallery, production notes and a handful of deleted scenes with optional director’s commentary. In the behind the scenes feature Andre Dubus III talks about the inspiration for the book and about his relationship with director Vadim Perelman, who wrote the screenplay in just 14 days. How Ben Kingsley first heard about the book is a fascinating story (Debus’ wife sent him the book without her husband knowing). ‘He was meant to play this role,’ says Perelman. ‘He can act with his eyebrow.’

Published August 19, 2004

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CAST: Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Connelly, Ron Eldard, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Jonathan Ahdout, Frances Fisher, Kim Dickens, Navi Rawat

DIRECTOR: Vadim Perelman

SCRIPT: Vadim Perelman, Shawn Larence Otto (novel by Andre Dubus III)

RUNNING TIME: 126 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Director’s Commentary, deleted scenes, behind the scenes, Shohreh Aghdashloo Audition; photo gallery; cast, filmmakers, production notes.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: August 19, 2004

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