House of Sand and Fog (2003)
Premise: Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) has lost her family home due to a bureaucratic error, and a former Iranian colonel (Ben Kingsley) and his family move in for a rock-bottom price. Neither is willing to budge, and their turf tussle soon becomes a tragedy.
Results: Perhaps the first real estate thriller, House of Sand and Fog is a smartly written, emotionally harrowing film with phenomenal acting. Kingsley is superb and deserves a Best Actor nomination. Shohreh Aghdashloo is heartbreaking as Kingsley’s wife, who doesn’t know a lot of English but loses sleep over the word ”deportation.” The drama is meant to convey that both sides have a convincing claim to the house, but who are audiences going to side with, an American screw-up who could have avoided the whole mess by mailing in a letter, or a hard-working family ere the son is willing to take a second paper route to help out? The final act is a bit overly bleak, and the cop boyfriend character is an easy go-to for plot turns. House of Sand and Fog is one of the more compelling films of the year. What more could you want in a prestige picture?
Nate’s Grade: B+