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HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG

Starring: Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly
Director: Vadim Perelman
Rated: MA15+

LIFE for Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) has not been kind in House of Sand and Fog.

The death of her loved ones has left her depressed and aimless.

The one security she has in life is the home her father left her. It is right by the sea.

A bureaucratic bungle at the bank, and the fact that Kathy has ignored the bank’s letters for a year, sees them foreclose on the house and put it up for sale.

Massoud Amir Behrani (Ben Kingsley) buys Kathy’s home. He is an Iranian immigrant who works hard to provide for his wife Nadi (Shohreh Aghdashloo), son Esmail (Jonathan Ahdout) and daughter Soraya (Navi Rawat).

Massoud dreams of recapturing the affluent life he enjoyed in Iran, when he was a colonel in the Shah’s army.

While being forcibly evicted from the house, Kathy meets Lester (Ron Eldard), a local policeman. He falls in love with her and joins her in trying to drive the Behrani family out of the house.

Andre Dubin’s novel of the same name was a huge critical and commercial success.

Somehow this relatively simple story of the many levels of possession and dispossession worked better on paper than it does on film. Maybe it needed the slower unpacking of the turned page.

On the screen it seems hysterical and some of the narrative jumps are just too much too soon.

There are, however, some glorious elements in House of Sand and Fog. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is ravishing, assisted by Lisa Churgin’s creative editing.

Vadim Perleman’s direction focuses on exquisite details, and he has a fine eye for the composition of each shot.

Best of all, by far, is Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of the proud Iranian immigrant with an unknown but sinister past. He simmers like a volcano, always threatening to explode but never doing so, at least not outwardly. Kingsley is a study in restraint and power. Here is a great actor strutting his stuff.

Aghdoshloo’s Nadi is also finely drawn – one part submissive wife to two parts accusing and resentful of how her life has developed for her.

The American-born characters are less successful, showing no restraint in pursuing their passions or displaying their emotions.

House of Sand and Fog is an intense and dark story with some physical, emotional and verbal violence which some viewers may find distressing. Avoid it if you’re feeling down because, while a strong story, it’s not uplifting.

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