Generally favorable reviews - based on 41 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 30 out of 41
  2. Negative: 1 out of 41
  1. 100
    It stands with integrity and breaks our hearts.
  2. 100
    Its step-by-step tragedy is so ruthless in its unfolding, you may find yourself wishing it were less well done, that it left you some room to breathe. But House of Sand and Fog has a story to tell and it means to tell it, no matter what the cost.
  3. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    As reversible misunderstandings grow into irreversible tragedy, it slowly dawns on you that this is a superior, heartbreaking film.
  4. 90
    Features an astonishing pair of lead performances and one of this year's most impressive directing debuts. If this movie isn't quite the contempo-Greek tragedy it wants to be, it's still a powerful, unforgettable meditation on fate, cultural collision and the morality of renovating a house that isn't really yours.
  5. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    A faithful, powerful and superbly acted adaptation of Andre Dubus III's international bestseller.
  6. The movie's intense watchability can be traced directly to superb performances by Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley.
  7. Responsibility for the ensuing tragedy is so finely calibrated that neither can be comprehensively blamed or exculpated.
  8. 88
    A grim, challenging movie that will amply reward audiences willing to go along with its ride into the dark depths of its characters' souls.
  9. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    The clash over the house quickly escalates into a modern-day tragedy. It is a fascinating film, handsomely adapted from the book and well directed.
  10. 88
    This is a hard, challenging motion picture. It demands much from the audience, and repays that investment with powerful, engrossing drama that does not offer insulting, facile answers. House of Sand and Fog is gripping and unforgettable, one of the best movies of 2003.
  11. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly create characters that live and seethe with absolute credibility, and Ron Eldard’s Lester is a subtle portrait of a good man who lets himself go bad, first out of boredom, then out of erotic fixation.
  12. Perelman and Otto make auspicious, nearly flawless debuts.
  13. Just because a scenario turns dark doesn't mean that it's convincing. House of Sand and Fog is artful until it lunges for Art.
  14. 80
    This is not pleasant stuff, but it's important, and thoroughly heart-wrenching.
  15. The nearly flawless execution of a deeply flawed premise.
  16. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Novelist Andre Dubus's plotting may be too much for a two-hour movie. But the story's details feel fresh. The vivid clarity of the images, the compressed fury of the tale, are impossible to get out of your head.
  17. The plot that follows, including the wretched young woman who lost the house, is of interest only insofar as Kingsley supports the structure with a powerful man.
  18. 75
    Before it runs off course into excess, this brilliantly acted film version of the 1999 novel by Andre Dubus III moves with a stabbing urgency.
  19. 75
    The movie's emotional impact is undeniable. It's a devastating portrait of smart, civilized people driven to behave in uncivilized ways, until it's too late.
  20. It's a sad, rich story, full of misunderstandings, bad bargains, odd parallels.
  21. Remember the name Shohreh Aghdashloo. The heartbreakingly fine Iranian actress is only a subsidiary character in House of Sand and Fog...But she is the soul of this pungent film.
  22. There is both a sense of disappointment and relief when House of Sand and Fog crosses over into improbability, when the viewer can sit back, breathe easy again. All this trouble over the failure to open an envelope.
  23. 75
    What makes the movie potent, though, has nothing to do with metaphor or parable. It's that the story provides Connelly, Kingsley and Shohreh Aghdashloo as Kingsley's wife with all the tools they need to resurrect, flesh out, revamp and criticize outmoded male and female roles.
  24. The carefully laid foundation of suspense and dread, with its symmetries and crisp dialogue, is squandered in a clumsy pileup of credulity-stretching cataclysmic events.
  25. 70
    Might've been a great film without Lester, the Deputy, getting in the way of the key relationship between Behrani and Kathy.
  26. 70
    Exceptional performances and unexpected twists of plot keep the story from descending into overwrought melodrama.
  27. Though the film is somber, it certainly commands one's attention, and for a while one's respect.
  28. A sterling example of what Hollywood can accomplish when it puts its trust into an offbeat project whose creative team has a different perspective on American life.
  29. 63
    Exacting but disappointing thriller.
  30. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    There's a desperately inevitable, powerfully tragic last reel, but getting there is absolute torture.
  31. The first hour is excellent, spinning an ethically and emotionally compelling tale. Narrative logic fades during the second half, though, reducing the movie's impact on every level.
  32. There's a dignity about it, and it's only later that we come to realize that this dignity is misplaced, born of a fatal reserve and a lack of complete investment.
  33. In the end, it's just a pointless downer.
  34. 50
    Everything about the movie seems excessive to the material. What should have been a small, independent feature without marquee casting -- the story's protagonists, after all, are meant to be the kind of people nobody ever notices.
  35. Reviewed by: Ed Park
    The clunky manipulations of plot, and the sorry fate awaiting everyone in this foggy House is less wrenching than acted.
  36. 50
    The ineluctable downward pull of absolutely everything in this movie is more exasperating than moving. [12 January 2004, p. 86]
  37. 42
    Grim, sordid and, as it progresses, increasingly dunderheaded.
  38. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Perleman has little control over his characters; they simply go to pieces in the most ludicrous ways. He has even less control over Kingsley, who soon slips into full-blown Yul Brynner mode.
  39. 40
    Folds like a house of cards, collapsing under its own flimsy foundation.
  40. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    This is a movie that sends you out shuddering, chuckling nervously, wanting to tell the people in line for the next show, "It's the feel-bad movie of the year!"
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 88 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 50 out of 59
  2. Negative: 8 out of 59
  1. Aug 14, 2013
    This gloomy tale is about ex-addict Kathy (Connelly) being evicted from her house and Colonel Behrani (Kingsley), a refugee forced to leave Iran with his family due to the fall of the Shah. Behrani buys the house in a desperate attempt to redress is financial situation, thus starting an escalating fight with Kathy.

    Behrani is a stoic man, burdened with an impractical wife and a couple of children who are eating up all his income. The man works two jobs, while his family seems blissfully unaware of what is going on.
    Kathy is introduced while on the phone, lying to her family. The camera shows a dirty house and unopened letters on the floor. Not the sort of introduction to elicit sympathy.

    Enraged by being evicted from her house (because she was too lazy to open her mail), Kathy hires a lawyer and proceeds to manipulate Lester, a married cop, into doing some dirty work for her.Like most addicts, Kathy seems incapable to take responsibilities. Throughout the movie she is constantly blaming someone else or on the verge of drowning in self-pity.

    The only thing Kathy and Behrani have in common is that they both lie to their families. They both are slightly unsympathetic, but the antipathy award goes to Lester, the policeman who embarks in the extramarital affair with Kathy, dumps wife and kids and starts threating Behrani until the bitter end.

    I read the novel and liked the fact that the writer did not take sides. You really get the idea that two wrongs do not make one right. However, the movie failed to produce the same effect. Kathy comes across as the wrong one, the pushy, needy, weak, spoiled woman with a passive-aggressive attitude who can only manipulate or cry her way through life. Therefore, I found the movie disappointing.
    Full Review »
  2. Jul 16, 2013
    Its not exactly an uplifting film, but with Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly's absolutely masterful performances, James Horner's mesmerizing score, Roger Deakins perfect cinematography, and an overall sense of thematic majesty, "House Of Sand And Fog" makes for an almost unforgivably indelible film. Full Review »
  3. Nov 17, 2012
    The film has a brilliant urgency to it. It is also unrelenting and unmerciful. House of Sand and Fog isn't a blow to the head, it's a blow to the soul. Full Review »