A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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?
Pride, anger, loss, desperation, law, love, strength, and weakness collide to create vast tragedy in this contemplative 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.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: December 18, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: March 29, 2004
- Cast: Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Connelly, Shohreh Aghdashloo
- Director: Vadim Perelman
- Studio: DreamWorks
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 125 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some violence/disturbing images, language and a scene of sexuality
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