House Of Sand And Fog (2003)

(In theaters, February 2004) It doesn’t take a long time, through the leaden cinematography and the ominous performances, to understand that this is not a story that will have a happy ending. As a house becomes a battleground for a desperate young woman (Jennifer Connelly, as willing as ever to sink in an unglamourous role) and a hardened Iranian immigrant (Ben Kingsley, in a masterful performance), the conflict involves more and more victims in the spiral. Forget about antagonists and protagonists; here, everyone is a victim, and that’s never so true than at the end of the film. This emotional demolition derby ends with only one person standing. (Alas, it ends at that moment, with scarcely any nod at the aftermath) This is the stuff “dramas” are made of; it may not be pleasant to watch, but it’s unarguably powerful. The directing is sober, making ample place for the cinematography and the performances. The plot is a sadistic exercise in rock-throwing, so don’t be surprised as some of the more outlandish twists and turns; it’s not playing fair in its pursuing of pure pathos. Not a particularly good choice for entertainment, unless you seek reassurance that your own situation is not, in fact, so desperate.

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