After archaeologist Alex Matthews is killed by accident at a dig in South America, his wife Ruth (Kathleen Turner) and children Michael (Shiloh Strong) and Sally (Asha Menina) return to their former home in an American suburb. As soon as they arrive, Sally goes mute and starts displaying unusual behavior, such as climbing on the roof, shrieking repetitively when things are changed, and creating elaborate card houses. Dr. Jake Beerlander (Tommy Lee Jones) diagnoses her with autism and wants to start behavioral therapy, but Ruth wants to try to get inside Sally's world and communicate with her on her level.
House of Cards contains examples of:
- Astral Projection: Ruth leaves her body and climbs the tower after Sally, but the cards ripple under her.
- Dying Candle: In flashbacks, Alex drops his lantern as he falls. The lantern lands near his body and goes out a few seconds later.
- Family Eye Resemblance: It's noted that Sally has her father's eyes.
- Heaven Above: The dead live in the cradle of the moon.
- Holding Hands: Sally takes Ruth's hand as she comes out of her autism.
- Mayincatec: The language that Sally and Selord speak to each other is referred to as both Mayan and Nahuatl, two completely unrelated languages spoken by different civilizations.
- Neurodiversity Is Supernatural: Sally's retreat into autism allows her to communicate with her dead father.
- Not Now, Kiddo: Ruth dismisses Michael when he tries to tell her that Sally regularly climbs onto the roof.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Michael's friend Bart hates being called Bartholomew.
- Reverse Arm-Fold: Sally folds her hands behind her back as she climbs the giant tower Ruth built.
- Tantrum Throwing: In therapy, Sally becomes frustrated and flings the small plastic cups she was lining up against the mirror.
- Telepathy: Sally and Ruth converse mind-to-mind, with Ruth giving Sally her memory of Alex's death, allowing her to let him go.