“House of Sand and Fog,” premiering at the Smith Opera House this weekend, looms as one of the year's best films — a powerful tale of a personal conflict that turns tragic when emotions spin out of control.
Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly) is wrongly evicted for not paying taxes on her home. A recovering addict who's fighting depression since her husband left her, she's been hibernating, ignoring tax notices. Now it's too late. The county auctions her house, and it's bought by a former Iranian air force colonel who's trying to start life anew.
Ben Kingsley plays Massoud Amir Behrani, a proud man reduced to working menial jobs in order to maintain a pretense of affluence. His wife, Nadi (Iranian Best Supporting Actress nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo), longs for their old life yet is deathly afraid of returning to Iran, where they would be killed by the new regime.
Massoud plans to sell the modest home at a profit to improve their circumstances. Meanwhile, because of a new deck he's built that gives them a view of the sea, the house reminds them of the seaside villa they gave up in Iran.
Both sides have a rightful claim on the property. But as Kathy's situation grows more desperate, her bitterness grows. She also falls under the sway of Lester (Ron Eldard), a married sheriff's deputy with whom she starts an affair. More than she, he has an ingrained distrust of immigrants, and he stokes her anger.
Massoud's imperiousness doesn't help matters. At first, neither side understands what fuels the other's passions. And Massoud, too, is guilty of stereotyping.
Based on a novel by Andre Dubus III, this is the debut film by Vadim Perelman, a director of TV commercials, who handles the material and the actors with assurance.
The Smith Opera House screens “House of Sand and Fog” at 7 p.m. April 1 and 2 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 4. With a running time of two hours, six minutes, this film is rated R for some violence, disturbing images, language and a scene of sexuality. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors. All seats on Thursday are $3. Call 781-5483 or toll-free 866-355-5483 for details or to pre-order tickets.
The Smith Opera House is located at 82 Seneca Street in Geneva. The Smith is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, the City of Geneva, the Town of Geneva and by contributions from individual supporters.