Netflix Graveyard: House of Sand

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This Netflix Graveyard segment is a double-edged sword. On hand, it motivates me to finally watch the movies that have been on my queue for decades, maybe even centuries and add them to my master list. But on the other hand, there are reasons I have felt compelled not to watch some of these movies yet. Either they are extremely depressing (like a Netflix Graveyard that is coming up in a couple of weeks) or they are mediocre movies that was added in a moment of weakness. Both of these don’t really lead to an especially fruitful discussion. House of Sand is one of the latter films. It has an interesting premise with a bit of publicity hook that fails to lead to anything unique or interesting to say.

Maybe the reason this movie didn’t work for me is that it had too many hooks. One hook is that the mother and daughter in the film are played by a real life mother and daughter pair. Another hook is that halfway through the movie the mother and daughter switch places. Another one is that is set in a desert in northern Brazil. The last hook is that the filmmaker is married to the daughter and wrote this movie especially for her and her mother. While all three of these hooks lead to material that the actresses can sink their teeth into, the result doesn’t translate too well to the screen. But before I go on pooping on this film, let me tell you what it is about. A daughter who has married for money, married a mad man who is determined to live and cultivate his fortune on a lagoon in the middle of the desert. The only other inhabitants of this area are escaped slaves (This is 1910, by the way). The husband is painted as a drunk and dominating patriarch is unwilling to see failure once they have finally reached their habitation. Pretty quickly he is disposed of. Now the mother and daughter must fend for themselves in this desert while also trying to find a way out before the daughter has the baby she is pregnant with. One of the escaped slaves (he shows up as part of a gang early in the movie, but I guess they couldn’t afford to give everyone a speaking part, so the gang members disappear from the picture) is enlisted to help them survive. There are a couple of missed opportunities to get out, but it all leads to her resigning to the fact she is stuck there forever. A huge time jump happens and all of a sudden the daughter who is very young is now grown up and boy is she wild. She gets drunk. She sleeps with a bunch of escaped slaves (They suddenly reappear) and she is just plain annoying. The mother sees that she needs to grow up with people around her so she arranges for her to escape to the city. However she elects to stay behind with her slave beau.

I guess my biggest problem with this movie is the huge time shift. The actresses exchange roles as the daughter now turned mother grows older and the new-born is the same age she was when she came to the desert. But it happens with no real warning. All of a sudden the actress we thought was the mother of this new-born is acting like an immature slut and the mother we thought had died at the end of the previous scene before hand is still alive. It takes some time to adjust to the change and realize that these two characters are still aging and are not magic elves or something. Another issue I had with the film is the balant missed opportunity to comment on a female’s struggle at this time. In an early scene, the original mother says that now she is in the desert she is free from men telling her what to do. But she and her daughter end up trusting and relying wholly on the slave to help them survive. They do what he tells them to do. I feel like this movie would have been a richer film if the film stayed in one time frame and talked a little bit more about the struggle they had for equal rights.

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