For many individuals a home is not just a place to live in but the objective of a life's worth of hardship centered on mortgage payments. It offers some an identity and provides them with a feeling of belonging and self worth. 'House of sand and fog', the story of an Iranian immigrant in the US and his calamitous conflict over the possession of one such house that belongs to a down on her luck woman, elicits powerful performances by its protagonists and traps them in a distressing situation from which there is no easy resolution.
Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) is a careless, seemingly downtrodden female who lives in a large estate. Her father passed away 8 months ago, and ever since then her life has been spiraling out of control towards reckless self destruction. Adding a layer of volatility is the fact that she is also a reforming alcoholic on the rebound from a failed relationship. Massoud Amir Behrani (Ben Kingsley) fairs no better in his situation. A dominating and stubborn ex air force colonel in his native Iran during the Shah's rule, he escaped with his family after the Shah was overthrown and has been living a life of abandoned dignity ever since. To keep up the fašade of his family's existence as wealthy and affluent, he lives in a lavish hotel yet works two odd jobs a day to make ends meet. Having successfully married off his eldest daughter to a respectable family, his attention shifts towards accumulating enough wealth to finance his son's college education.
The opportunity to do so presents itself in the form of the auction of Kathy's house, who is evicted from it due to non-payment of taxes. To Amir, the house represents a lucrative investment since it is being sold at a price much less than its actual worth. Therein lays a method of incurring great sums of money in a quick and easy way. After he has bought the house and Kathy has discovered the displeasure of living first in a motel, and then her car, he starts restructuring it in an attempt to maximize the value of his new asset. Kathy finds this both irksome and analogous to a scar on memories of her father's hardship in initially acquiring the house for her family, especially after she discovers the tax evasion indictment was a mishap.
The vigorous script, which throws some good confrontational scenarios, also succeeds in portraying a balanced display of the apathy of both sides. Kingsley was nominated for an Academy Award last week for this very role, which should come as no surprise to viewers. Consider the nature of his previous characters (he played Indian leader Gandhi in the movie of the same name and a Polish accountant in the harrowing 'Schindler's list') and it becomes clear to anyone how intense and cosmopolitan the actor truly is. He brings great dimension to his role by consistently reminding us how much he craves the life he so abruptly left behind, as evident by his attempts to remind everyone of his former life as a Colonel, especially when announcing his name. Connelly, who may now seem like an old hand at playing distressed emotional females, never lets her performance reek of staleness. Both evoke sullen poignancies in equal measure for their cause.
The movie isn't perfect, though it comes pretty close. A sympathetic yet unbalanced Deputy Sheriff acts as the catalyst by which some questionable bustle occurs. Without his involvement the movie would have remained just as convincing. Also noteworthy is the lack of background into how Connelly got into her morose situation in the first place. But these are minor nuances in an otherwise smooth flowing and satisfying drama. Watch it, if only to remind yourself the meaning of family and sacrifice. - Faizan Rashid