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2004 Mini Reviews

House of Sand and Fog (2003)

House of Sand and Fog
Directed by Vadim Perelman
Starring Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, Shohreh Aghdashloo
Running Time: 126 minutes

This film was easily the most surprising film of the Oscar season. Even still, the premise to Sand and Fog does not seem that interesting. However, the film becomes about so much more than just a simple house. The house essentially becomes the unreachable salvation for an emotional woman, a confused cop, and a family struggling to find a footing in a new country.

This film turned out to be almost a textbook lesson on character development. It seems that nearly every scene was successful in both developing the characters and advancing the story. With such strong characters, their actions, however rash, make perfect sense. The only drawback to such meticulous character development is that the film moves much slower than many, which might turn off some viewers, but that slow pace is essential in order for the story to work.

What I enjoyed most about the film was the cinematography. I have heard here and elsewhere that good cinematography does not draw attention to itself, and that is the case here. Roger Deakins does an exceptional job of making each scene clear as can be, with perfect lighting that draws attention to only the essential elements in the scene. This is an even more challenging task for Deakins, considering that much of the film is set among darkness and fog. I consider this to be his best achievement, and he already carries quite an impressive resume. I hope he is rewarded for his work this February.

The acting in this film is also top-notch. Ben Kingsley delivers what I feel is the strongest male performance this year. Jennifer Connelly also gives what I feel is the strongest performance of her career. The real surprise is Shohreh Aghdashloo as Nadi, who is absolutely brilliant and conveys the desperation that Mr. Berhani cannot vocalize because his character will not show such weakness.

Score: 9/10