House of Sand and Fog



Serious and thoughtful; for mature teens+.
  • Review Date: May 4, 2004
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2003
  • Running Time: 125 minutes

What parents need to know


Extreme and graphic violence, murder, suicide, accidental shooting. Many harsh and painful confrontations.


Explicit sexual references and situations, nudity, adultery.


Very strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking and smoking, character is an alcoholic.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has extreme, graphic, and tragic violence including murder, attempted and successful suicides, domestic abuse, and an accidental shooting. There are explicit sexual references and situations, including adultery and nudity. Characters drink and smoke, including an alcoholic character who ends a period of sobriety. Characters use very strong language and there are many harsh and painful confrontations.

What's the story?

Following the breakup of her marriage, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) retreats to her house -- the house her father left her and her brother in his will. She has retreated so completely that she has not read her mail, which included an erroneous notice of an overdue tax bill. Because she did not respond, the county evicts her and auctions the house for a fraction of its value. The buyer is an immigrant, an Iranian colonel named Behrani (Ben Kingsley), who has spent almost all of his savings to maintain a lifestyle that enabled his daughter to marry well. For him, buying the house will make it possible for him to quit his construction job. He plans to sell the house at a profit to start his return to a position consistent with his education and ability. For Kathy and Behrani the fight is not about money; it is about home. The house is a refuge. It is a part of them. Kathy feels safe inside the house. Once she leaves, she begins to unravel. Kathy must return to the house to be healed. But she cannot do that without destroying the lives of other people.

Is it any good?


In HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, pride, anger, loss, desperation, law, love, strength, and weakness collide to create vast tragedy in this story of a battle for a house that overlooks the water. The lives of Kathy and Behrani circle, parallel, and intersect each other. Both must take on menial jobs and change their clothes in public bathrooms. Both are too proud to tell their families the truth about their situations. Behrani's devotion to his children parallels Kathy's loss of her father and the house he left to her when he died, as well as her own longing for a child. The Behrani family alternately treats Kathy as an intruder, a guest, and ultimately almost as a member of the family when they take her in at her most devastated and care for her as though she was a child. She wakes up the next morning in the house, swathed in silks like an Arabian nights princess. But the fairy tale becomes a nightmare.

Connelly, Kingsley, Ron Eldard as the cop who evicts Kathy, and Shohreh Aghdashloo as Mrs. Bahrani are all superb, and the adaptation of the award-winning book is a thoughtful and serious, if uneven, translation of the book's language and tone. It fails to sustain a sense of tragic inevitability and that prevents it from being truly involving.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why it was so hard for Kathy and the Colonel to come to some kind of compromise.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 18, 2003
DVD release date:March 29, 2004
Cast:Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Connelly, Shohreh Aghdashloo
Director:Vadim Perelman
Run time:125 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some violence/disturbing images, language and a scene of sexuality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 16 years old Written byMr581 June 22, 2010
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byEvanReviews August 14, 2009

Perfect for Mature Teens and Adults

Very good emotional drama between two families and the struggle for this house. Some mild language with about 7 F words in all but 2 sex scenes in which one is mildly graphic. 5/5 :)
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Parent of a 13 year old Written byMr. Boxbox January 14, 2009

Incredibly depressing

This is an excellent film. Its very deep but extremly dark and depressing. Violence: Extreme. Characters attempt or commit suicide and nearly all characters are killed. Overall, the theme of the movie is very dark and depressing. Language: Some f-words but the swearing is not frequent. Sexual content: One brief scene. Drug Content: A character becomes an alcoholic. A character attemps suicide by swallowing a bunch of pills. This is an excellent film but is very dark and not for kids.


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