House of Sand and Fog

  • Review Date: May 4, 2004
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2003
  • Running Time: 125 minutes

Common Sense Media says

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.

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Kids say

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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

This review of House of Sand and Fog was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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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, okay 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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Kid, 11 years old April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

For Mature Viewers Only.

This story is somewhat amazing, and yet somewhat raw at the same time. Watching it was like slowly drowning, the overwhelming sad air sucked me in. It was excellent, but for mature people only, as two of the characters explicitly have sex, and a lot of the themes could be slightly strange to certain people. Xenophobia is a major point of the whole story, which I found great, as it is rampant these days, along with a questioning of morality and asking how far one will go for material things (the house). The ending frustrated me-- I didn't find it in Col. Behrani's character to kill himself, and it seemed like the author had cooked up a morbid ending just to make the whole thing hit home more, when in actuality it took away from the overhanging atmosphere. But still excellent, nonetheless. If you can handle it, you won't be very disappointed.
Teen, 16 years old Written byfatcatmikez April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Not That Good...

This movie is really wierd and it dosen't make much sense. It also has a really bad ending where just about everyone dies or kills themselves. That's the worst part of the movie.
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


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