House of Sand and Fog Vadim Perelman

House of Sand and Fog Vadim Perelman
House of Sand and Fog had the dubious distinction of being named an Oprah's Book Club book in 2000. Inspired by the lingering fog on the shores of San Francisco's Bay Area, author Andre Dubus III created a story around a house in that environment. The first inhabitant of this house is a woman drowning in the remnants of drug addiction and a failed relationship.

After she is evicted in error, the second inhabitant of the house is a man struggling to stay afloat after fleeing Iran and his former wealth and status with his family in tow. Both are desperate to exist and the ownership of the house becomes their only hope. The novel — as is sometimes said about those in the "O" club — leaves much to be desired. A bleak, illogical storyline, it may have had more merit had the first and second inhabitants been less rigid and unappealing.

The film stays close within the boundaries of the novel, but adds a sympathetic dimension lacking in the book. Jennifer Connelly plays Kathy Nicolo, who, finding the law futile in restoring her ownership of the house, turns to despair and her married cop boyfriend (played like a Popsicle stick by Ron Eldard). Ben Kingsley plays Massoud Amir Behrani, anxious to make a proper life for his family. Though Connelly and Kingsley are more likeable than their literary doppelgangers, Behrani's family (played by Shohreh Aghdashloo and Jonathan Ahdouf), the only ingenuous characters in the book, are quite the same.

But the real star of House of Sand and Fog is the atmosphere. The subtle shades of dark and light, and the evocative use of fog are poignant. They add poetry, mystery and intensity. This is Vadim Perelman's first attempt at a feature film, and it has already won the 2003 National Board of Review "Best Directorial Debut." (Dreamworks/Universal)