House of Sand and Fog - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

House of Sand and Fog Reviews

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Super Reviewer
June 25, 2010
"I have taken us so far off our course, but now it is time to return. It is time for us to go home to our destiny."

There are no good or bad characters in House of Sand and Fog. Just a lot of flawed individuals who seem to unintentionally make matters worse at every turn. This isn't a feel-good movie, to say the least.

The story is about a conflict over a house that is very important to several different people. The woman that it originally belongs to is wrongfully evicted from it, and it ends up being sold to an exiled Iranian man who needs the house as part of a plan to provide for his family. An unimaginable amount of conflict and tragedy ends up resulting from this unfortunate situation.

I'm an avowed fan of these kinds of dour dramas. House of Sand and Fog has all the emotional power of a movie like Revolutionary Road or Little Children, without the heavy-handed preachiness of Crash. This movie isn't trying to teach you anything or tug on your heartstrings, it's just a well-told story about tragedy. Combine that with solid writing, a good score, and a great cast (lead by Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley), and you have a movie that is a fine example of the drama genre.
Super Reviewer
½ November 9, 2007
An extremely powerful film. Kingsley gives a performance that should be up with the bests of all-time, where Connelly, strikingly beautiful, gives an Oscar-worth one as well. A deep story that is rich in characterization as well as with things such as material possessions and how much we place value in them. A heck of a depressing story with people who are extremely troubled and have very few redeeming qualities, but in the end it really makes you take a strong look on how much you place value on items, such as a simple house, and the effects these possessions can have on your life.
Super Reviewer
½ May 15, 2007
Solemn and well-directed drama, about a family who gets in bitter conflict with the previous owner of their newly bought house. The first half is pretty slow, but it builds up tension well for what happens in the second, where things really shift into high gear. One thing I really appreciated about the film, was the fact that it was very hard to predict the final outcome of the plot. That, along with its superb acting and refined script, makes it into an above-average drama, and one I'd gladly recommend. Be aware though that it's very tragic in tone. So if you're looking for something cheerful with a happy end, you may want to look elsewhere.
Super Reviewer
August 10, 2008
Powerful and very sad, HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG is a tragic film, brilliantly directed by Vadim Perelman, in his debut. Both Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley are amazing in their performances. Sir Ben would've been flawless if it wasn't for the whole hospital moment, which I found very fake. Shohreh Aghdashloo was very good, too. The beautiful cinematography contrasts with the heavy, gloomy tone of the film.
Super Reviewer
October 4, 2007
Yikes...very driving story of bad situations gone worse. Compelling from start to finish. Not to mention Jennifer Connelly is impossibly hot in it.
Super Reviewer
March 24, 2008
This film sucked me in, chewed me up and then spat me out.

I was left feeling drained and slightly depressed, but also very thoughtful about what I had just experienced. The sign of a great film in my book.

If you like predictable heartwarming films, look elsewhere.
Super Reviewer
½ March 20, 2007
Really, really sad.
Super Reviewer
½ October 29, 2007
Beautifully acted, especially by Shohreh Aghdashloo, but so grim there is no real viewing pleasure
Super Reviewer
April 2, 2007
Overrated and dull. Kingsley's accent is unintentionally hilarious. Connelly is brilliant in her role, but is an unlikeable charcter. Other than that it is a drama that fails to leave a lasting impression.
Super Reviewer
½ January 23, 2007
Given all the ridiculously depressing roles she takes on (and with such aplomb!), I'm surprised that Jennifer Connelly is as happy a woman as she is.

This movie is an absolutely superb drama with a massive moral question and no clear answer, leaving it up to the viewer to decide. The atmosphere is sad and oppressive and the performances are haunted.
Super Reviewer
½ June 14, 2006
Thriller drama with beautiful 2nd unit photography of the landscapes and great acting performances. Ben Kingsley is outstanding as always, and Jennifer Connelly still manages to get hotter each year. Good movie, but not a feel-good flick.
Super Reviewer
½ October 17, 2006
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ September 29, 2013
"There is a house in New Orleans they call the... Sand and Fog, and it's been the ruin of many a poor boy, and God, I know I'm one." Okay, there isn't exactly a name for the house featured in this film, which takes place in Northern California, way off from New Orleans, but there was no way I wasn't going to make that reference, so just stop your sulking, or at least save it for after this film. No, this film isn't quite that depressing, but jeez, I'd imagine the immigrants in this film had never seen a territory war this brutal, and they bailed out of Israel, for goodness' sake. Man, the ignorance of our female lead is startling, as this family came from a hard life to try to find a happy home, yet they go harassed by some pesky... formerly drug-addicted, abandoned and poor woman who shamed her father by losing the house that he died trusting her with. Jennifer Connelly's forehead is depressing enough (At least she tried trimming down the eyebrows for this film), so I think it's safe to say that all of these people have led some pretty messed up lives, and they're about to get even more unfortunate, and not just in the movie world. Yeah, Ben Kingsley doesn't exactly have the track record with films that he used to, but hey, at least he sometimes does films that some people are bound to see, because that Oscar nomination hasn't exactly been all that beneficial to Shohreh Aghadashloo's career, possibly because people whose names you can actually pronounce tend to be more marketable. Like I said, the Iranian's just can't catch a break, but hey, their and some American's problems sure do make for a good film, even if potential does get a touch "fogged" up (Yes, I said it) by some of this film's problems.

I'm not really asking for an especially unique drama here, but it feels like this film wants to be more than your garden-variety drama of this type, and if that's the case, then even on paper, this film is not off to a great start, as Shawn Lawrence Otto's and Vadim Perelman's script goes tainted with conventions that don't establish all that much predictability, but are still too familiar for you to not notice some under-inspiration in the originality department. Really, there was always going to be some kind of under-inspiration to this drama, as it is quite minimalist, offering only so much kick to conflict and even questionable characters, and ultimately crafting a sparse dramatic tale that still boasts much potential, betrayed by pacing problems. Even in atmosphere, momentum is too steady to hit all that hard, because even though this film is never dull, to my pleasant surprise, some hint of blandness stand within dry spells that, quite frankly, stiffens pacing, and therefore allowing you to meditate upon the perhaps unreasonable length of the film. At just a little under 130 minutes, this minimalist drama doesn't exactly have a minimalist length, and that's nice and all, seeing as how it's hard not to enjoy a drama that takes plenty of time to meditate upon its depths, much too often, the film finds itself meditating too much on its depths, dragging, if not meandering along fat around the edges until it becomes repetitious, then continuing to drag its feet until it becomes aimless. When I say that this film meanders, I man it, as there are only so much rises and falls in a drama this intense, and before you know it, tension is undercut within this drama whose emotional resonance is challenged enough by aforementioned natural shortcomings and familiarity, and that all too clearly wants to bite harder. Vadim Perelman, as a first-time filmmaker, puts a lot of ambition into this project, and I cannot blame him, as this is a promising project, just not as promising as he wants it too be and tries to make it through meditative tastefulness that gets to be too meditative for its own good, until you're left too detached to not notice other problems that drive this effort short of what it could be. Of course, the potential of this film is pretty hard to full obscure, and sure enough, as misguided as this drama kind of is in some places, when Perelman hits its mark, things get mighty compelling, or at least mighty appealing on an aesthetic level.

For a new filmmaker, Vadim Perelman was able to get some pretty good names in the film business for this project, even within the style department, as this film is lensed by the great Roger Deakins, whose cinematography is surprisingly kind of flat in a lot of places, but makes its highlights really count with that distinctly Roger Deakins taste in near-noirishly sparse lighting, whose well-defined, tasteful emphasis on the environment is both hauntingly beautiful by its own right and complimentary to the bleak depths of this drama, much like the great James Horner's Oscar-nominated score, which is subtly dynamic, with a thoughtful minimalism and ambience that entrances as both musically lovely and atmospherically effective. I wouldn't say that the artistic value of the film is quite as consistently remarkable as they say, but its remarkable moments are very much worth noting as worthy supplements to the effectiveness of this tasteful, perhaps overly meditative film, or rather, worthy, if somewhat improvable subject matter. As I've been saying, natural and storytelling minimalism drag out the drama and thin out its full sense of consequence, but note that I've also been going on and on about how there are some betrayals of potential that is very much present in concept, as this is still a very promising story concept, with very human drama, as well as noble thematic depth that deals with anything from xenophobia and flaws in the system for living, to self-destruction through pride and the dark depths that people will sink to for the sake of their own prosperity, brought to life by what Vadim Perelman does well as a first-time director. This isn't exactly some dull art film straight out of Cannes or something, but Perelman is pretty atmospheric with his approach to this film, and while such steadiness blands things up much too often, all-out dullness rarely, if ever ensues, as Perelman's atmosphere is often controlled enough for you to soak up the heart of this tense drama, generally to where you get some sense of intensity, and sometimes to where you catch a breath of emotional resonance, especially with the crushing ending. This gets to be a pretty harsh drama, and I wish Perelman was even more controlled with his storytelling, because with more realized storytelling and a more polished, less formulaic script, this could have perhaps been a strong film, and yet, when it's all said and done, Perelman's performance as director does a good bit of justice to a worthy story, which is perhaps most brought to life by the performances. There are strong talents throughout the film, with worthy supporting performances including convincing ones by Ron Eldard as a corrupt man searching for a better life in the midst of struggling lives, and Shohreh Aghdashloo as a loving matriarch who fears what the flaws of her husband and the American system could do to her and her family, but it's the main leads who truly carry this thing, with Ben Kingsley capturing the pride and anguish of an honorable family man struggling to retain the opportunities for happiness of his loved ones, while a trim-browed and, believe it or not, particularly beautiful Jennifer Connelly proves to be subtly powerful in her portrayal of a miserable, tainted and all around thoroughly flawed woman who initially looks for both a new happy life and the happiness she lost, and grows to just look for some kind of a way out. The performances are stronger than the film itself, and while good performances are certainly important in this character drama, they can't fully restore the potential of the final product, which is still done enough justice to compel as a flawed, but rewarding experience.

When the fog has cleared, you can find a film too held back by a formulaic and even naturally improvable story concept, atmospheric cold spells that stiffen pacing enough for you to meditate upon repetitious, if not aimless dragging, and a touch too potent of a hint of ambition to fulfill its potential, yet there is still enough beauty to cinematography and score work, effectiveness to direction and inspiration to the performances - particularly those of Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kinsley - for "House of Sand and Fog" to stand as a somewhat messy, but ultimately rewarding dramatic meditation upon the tragedies that can occur when the destinies of the struggling and flawed clash.

3/5 - Good
Super Reviewer
January 30, 2010
Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant performances in an ultimately tragic tale.
Super Reviewer
November 19, 2011
The film firstly follows Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) as she is evicted from her beach house due to taxes that she didn't owe. Kathy realizes that the government wronged her and her only recourse would be to sue, but meanwhile she is homeless. The house is sold on at an auction before the error is corrected. Cue Ben Kingsley as a Middle Eastern refugee Colonel Behrani who fled to America and worked his fingers to the bone to get enough money to make a property investment and try to get back a fraction of the upper class lifestyle he and his wife Soraya (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and son Esmail (Jonathan Ahdout) were accustomed to. Behrani's desire to make a better life for himself and his family is perfectly rational and is indeed lauded in the American culture. He wants to sell the house off after buying it at a fraction of the value. The big moral dilemma is who`s in the right?

Riveting performances from Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley in this story that transcends the surface issues and deals with prejudice, pride, desperation and obsession! Make no bones about it, this is a not the usual feel good Hollywood film but a dark and bleak film with no clear hero or villain, just regular people caught up in events that will eventually break them and destroy their lives.
Super Reviewer
July 4, 2006
Jennifer Connelly gives us a heartbreaking, passionately realized piece of acting in this film. Overall, it works effectively as a dark drama, and I have a lot of respect for the amount of texture and complexity involved in the story itself. Roger Deakins' cinematography is striking and powerful in its exuding of the film's visually subtle gloom.
Super Reviewer
½ October 29, 2007
Let me just say that the book is one of the best novels I have ever read and this is a pretty good adaption. The performances are spot on, I mean absolutely perfect for the characters. I have two issues with the film. One: they changed the ending of the film from the book. Not that the film's ending is bad, it is good i just think it would have been braver to follow the book instead. Interestingly enough anyone who thinks this was a depreasing ending, the book is even more so. My second issue is that the plot seems almost absurd at points in the film, the trouble is that the book lets us see into the minds of these people and their actions make more sense. A lot of that is lost on film, but even with that said the actors carry the film regardless.
Super Reviewer
September 11, 2011
A very dense , hard and strong drama film directed by Vadim Perelman. The screenplay by Perelman and Shawn Lawrence Otto is based on the novel of the same name by Andre Dubus III.The story concerns the battle between a young woman and an immigrant Iranian family over the ownership of a house in Northern California. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, Best Actor (Ben Kingsley), Best Supporting Actress (Shohreh Aghdashloo), and Best Original Score (James Horner).Because the hard thematic this movie can be a depressing, but the performances, the cinematography and the musical score worth, making this a great movie.
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