House of Sand and Fog

Critics Consensus

Powerful and thought provoking film.



Total Count: 182


Audience Score

User Ratings: 42,475
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House of Sand and Fog Photos

Movie Info

Massoud Amir Behrani is living a lie to fulfill a dream. Once a member of the Shah of Iran's elite inner circle, he has brought his family to America to build a new life. Despite a pretense of continued affluence, he is barely making ends meet until he sees his opportunity in the auction of a house being sold for back taxes. It is a terrible mistake. Through a bureaucratic snafu, the house had been improperly seized from its rightful owner, Kathy Lazaro, a self-destructive alcoholic. The loss of her home tears away Kathy's last hope of a stable life--a life that had been nearly destroyed by addiction--and Kathy decides to fight to recover her home at any cost. Her struggle is joined by deputy sheriff Lester Burdon, who tries to take the law into his own hands to help Kathy. Ultimately the tale, itself, explores what happens when the American Dream goes terribly awry.

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Ben Kingsley
as Behrani
Ron Eldard
as Lester
Frances Fisher
as Connie Walsh
Navi Rawat
as Soraya
Carlos Gomez
as Lt. Alvarez
Samira Damavandi
as Little Soraya
Matthew Simonian
as Little Esmail
Al Faris
as Wedding Guest
Mark Chaet
as Wedding Guest
Joyce Kurtz
as Kathy's Mom
Scott N. Stevens
as County Official
Ken Kerman
as Locksmith
Scott Kinworthy
as Deputy Trainee
Tom Benick
as Hotel Security
Samuel Hart
as Elevator Man
Jackie Ahdout
as Elevator Woman
Spencer Garrett
as Auctioneer
Isabelle James
as Teenage Girl
Bonita Friedericy
as Motel Manager
David Carrera
as Carpenter
Joe Howard
as Appraiser
Dan Brinkle
as Husband/Buyer
Yan Lin
as Wife/Buyer
Ashley Edner
as Bethany
Tom Reynolds
as Gas Station Worker
Jose Luis Lopez Vasquez
as Arresting Officer
Matt Waite
as Arresting Officer
Frank Gallego
as Prison Guard
Karl Makinen
as Officer at End
Markus Baldwin
as Young Husband
Elton Ahi
as Wedding Singer
Shani Rigsbee
as Wedding Singer
Andy Madadian
as Wedding Singer
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Critic Reviews for House of Sand and Fog

All Critics (182) | Top Critics (40)

  • While the book reads as tragedy, the film feels like melodrama, and really hasn't the guts for Connolly's natural spirit and warmth, or Kingsley's beautiful canniness. They both feel completely throttled, done in by the film's over-calculated heaviness.

    Dec 19, 2017 | Full Review…
  • The vivid clarity of the images, the compressed fury of the tale, are impossible to get out of your head.

    Nov 1, 2007 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Top Critic
  • Perelman and his long-suffering stars make a spectacle of pain, but fail to register any lighter notes, while the denouement seems calculated to wring out every last tear.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Derek Adams

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • If "House of Sand and Fog" ultimately feels like a failed exercise, it has less to do with Perelman's limitations than with a book that would have been better served by staying on the page.

    Sep 26, 2005 | Full Review…
  • Connelly, who has often mistaken posing for acting, digs deep here; Aghdashloo ... gives us a portrait of a woman who is both dutiful to her husband and ravaged by his iron will. Kingsley is most impressive of all.

    Aug 7, 2004
  • The excellent acting is not quite enough to make us care.

    Mar 16, 2004 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Nev Pierce
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for House of Sand and Fog

  • Oct 12, 2016
    Extremely emotional movie, this film adaptation of the book is pretty on par. You are not sure who to love or hate and then performances are heart wrenching. This movie will stick with you long after you finish watching.
    Jessica S Super Reviewer
  • Oct 02, 2015
    House of Sand and Fog could very easily have been much better. Hard to believe that with Ben Kingsley's strong performance, this did not turn out to be an excellent film. House of Sand and Fog did have some powerful scenes but the whole was less than the sum of its parts. The plot became absurd towards the end, which made it hard to take seriously and yet it was still a decent enough film. Recommended for good dramatic acting.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 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
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Nov 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.
    Deb S Super Reviewer

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