House of Cards

Director: Michael Lessac
Screenwriters: Michael Lessac

Institute History

  • 1993 Sundance Film Festival


House of Cards is a dramatic parable with special significance for the modern world. It calls into question the smug certainties of medical science, without, on the other hand, reverting to mysticism, as it relates the story of a sudden and enigmatic ailment. Ruth Matthews (Kathleen Turner) returns from Mexico with her two children, Michael and Sally. Still recovering from the shock of the accidental death of their husband and father, the family is struck again when, for no apparent reason, Sally ceases to speak and begins to exhibit extraordinary behavior: walking on the roof or climbing trees with no fear, bare handedly grabbing a batted baseball, emitting an unceasing autistic scream when her brother unknowingly changes the position of her dolls, and later constructing an incredible "house of cards."

Her mother denies her daughter's disorder until a rooftop incident nearly results in tragedy. Referred to a renowned psychiatrist, Jake Beerlander (Tommy Lee Jones), who specializes in the treatment of autistic disorders, Mrs. Matthews enters a world where the remarkable is commonplace; where children communicate without language or exhibit fantastic abilities in mathematics or art, yet are unable to speak or relate normally to people. Her passionate desire to reach into her daughter's mind and "bring her back" to reality spurs her to utilize her architectural and computer skills to fashion a truly inspiring solution.

First-time feature-director Michael Lessac has constructed a fascinating and provocative film which counterpoints, in his words, "the conflict between two ways of seeing what none of us understand." Kathleen Turner and Tommy Lee-Jones both give compelling performances, particularly the overwhelming determination and strength Turner reveals in seeking explanations for her daughter's state. Lessac is enormously impressive, creating a complex story with multilayered dimensions. His sense of visual style is striking, particularly in the virtual-reality sequences. He has managed to conceive a film which both provokes our imaginations and touches our hearts.

Saturday Jan 30 4:00 pm
Egyptian Theatre

Sunday Jan 31 1:10 pm
Prospector Square Theatre


— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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