What You Need To Know:
(HH, PCPC, B, FR, LL, VVV, SS, NN, AA, D, M) Humanist worldview where man prays to God for help during a tragedy, but things only get worse, and he succumbs to despair and grief, plus injured person goes to Christian hospital, but doctors fail to save that person, with subtle politically correct elements depicting racism among white Americans, including white racist policeman, with identity politics where minorities and immigrants are the only characters who do any good or become sympathetic, and some talk about God’s blessings and some fervent prayers to God, but the prayers are not answered in a positive way, as well as light references to Islam, but no references to Allah or Mohammed; about 16 mostly strong obscenities, three strong profanities, four light profanities, and person vomits; extreme violence includes nail pierces woman’s foot, one person shot dead in chest, blood smears, mercy killing, man hits wife, father and son tussle and fall to ground, people confined against their will, and three graphic depicted suicide attempts, one of which is successful; depicted adulterous fornication; rear nudity and obscured upper female nudity; alcohol use and woman drinks herself to the point of suicide; smoking; and, racism partly rebuked, lying, corrupt white policeman chastised by Hispanic policeman, and stubbornness.
HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG telegraphs its ending from the very beginning, which is somewhat of a shame, because the movie could have been so much more compelling than it is. Also, the two major characters who clash in the movie do not become sympathetic until the very end, which makes the predictable ending all the more disappointing. HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, in fact, seems to be a throwback to politically liberal movies from the 1960s where the repressive, “racist” System with a capital “S” inexorably leads to human tragedy.
Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly plays Kathy Nicolo, a beautiful recovering alcoholic who loses first her husband and then her inherited beach house. The county evicts her from the house when, in her depression at losing her husband, she lets her mail pile up, thinking that she’s already taken care of a mistaken business tax bill of only $500. Lester, a kindly deputy sheriff, helps Kathy move her stuff until she can straighten the mess out.
Unhappily, however, an Iranian immigrant Massoud Amir Behrani, played by Oscar winner Ben Kingsley, snatches up her house at the auction and refuses to give it back to her unless the county pays him the market price, which is three times what he paid for the house. Kathy relies on Lester, with whom she begins an adulterous affair, to strong arm Behrani, a former Colonel in the Shah’s army, but Lester’s ham-handed tactics lead inevitably to great tragedy for Behrani, his wife, and their son.
The subtle message of this movie is that white racist Americans, with their hatred for immigrants, destroy an immigrant family’s hopes and dreams. Only the immigrants and an Hispanic policeman earn the movie’s sympathy. In fact, although his stubbornness and anger get the best of him, Behrani begins to have sympathy for Kathy when she tries to commit suicide in front of his house. She’s an injured little bird who needs to be taken care of, he tells his family, while also noting that sometimes a bird is really an angel sent by God.
At this point, the movie could have taken a redemptive turn (even though Behrani and his family are Muslim), but this outbreak of Behrani’s religious faith is slapped down very hard by the movie’s politically correct stance on America and its immigrant population. One dreadful tragedy and two more suicide scenes later, and viewers are left with a perplexing, frustrating display of contradictory emotions which add little to their knowledge of the human condition or God. The graphic scenes of successful and unsuccessful suicide attempts and human tragedy are overdone and ultimately distasteful and predictable. This is too bad, because there are some brilliant performances here, not the least of which is Kinglsey’s uptight but sympathetic patriarch and especially Shohreh Aghdashloo as his wife.