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The Sweet Hereafter [Blu-ray + DVD]
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In synopsis The Sweet Hereafter may sound like a devastatingly unpleasant downer, but don't be discouraged. The real subjects of this luminous picture (adapted by director Atom Egoyan from Russell Banks's novel) are hope and renewal--avoiding the cheap emotions suggested by those clichéd terms. Like other Egoyan films (Exotica, for one), it's an intriguing sort of mystery, a puzzle in which the big picture is not revealed until the very last piece is in place. A metropolitan attorney (Ian Holm) travels to a small British Columbian town where 14 children have been killed in a school bus accident to prepare a class-action suit. With sensitivity and empathy, he approaches relatives with promises that the suit will give focus and closure to their grief. And as he investigates the circumstances of the accident, he not only uncovers a few local secrets, but dredges up some painful pieces of his own past. Slowly, deeper mysteries are revealed--eternal mysteries at the very heart of human nature: Who is to blame for a tragedy like this? And why do people feel such a need to assign blame? Is that how they give meaning to otherwise inconceivable events? How does one reassemble a shattered life? The Sweet Hereafter is too honest to offer bromides, but it shows how a few people struggle, as best they can, to answer these questions for themselves. --Jim Emerson
From the Studio
Atom Egoyan’s haunting adaptation of the Russell Banks novel “The Sweet Hereafter” was the Canadian filmmaker’s most successful film to
date, taking home a Special Grand Jury Prize at the 1997 Cannes Film
Festival and scoring a pair of Academy Award® nominations,
including Best Director. The story concerns the cultural aftershocks
which tear apart a small British Columbia town in the wake of a school-bus accident which leaves a number of local children dead. Ian
Holm stars as Mitchell Stephens, a big-city lawyer who arrives in the interest of uniting the survivors to initiate a lawsuit; but his maneuvering
only drives the community further apart.
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Top Customer Reviews
I was so glad that New Line decided to go all out on this one, which they don't seem to do often with "smaller" films but this one got the "Platinum Series" treatment.
The video discussion "Before and After The Sweet Hereafter" with Russell Banks, who wrote the novel that this film is based on and it's director, Atom Egoyan is espically interesting with in depth discussions of the film instead of being one of those boring little "promo" docs it actually discusses the film IN DEPTH! The readings from the novel are espically interesting.
I also really enjoyed the short Q&As with the actors on their characters, although they were a little TOO short in my opinion.
The best extra was including the Robert Browning poem, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." Though I've never really been a fan of the poem,(I think it's seriously creepy, but the film uses it to great effect) it was so important to the film that it would be almost absurd not to include it.
"The Sweet Hereafter" opens with twin tragedies. In a small Canadian town, a school bus accident has occurred which has left 14 children dead. Miles away, a lawyer who would become involved in the bus accident receives a phone call from his estranged daughter. She tells him she is dying. The lawyer's name is Mitchell Stephens (Ian Holm) and he tracks down the parents who lost children in the accident hoping to file a class action lawsuit against the bus company. Stephens is driven to represent the townspeople partly because that is what he does in life and partly to distract him from the situation with his daughter. The town becomes divided over whether to pursue the lawsuit. Eventually, everything comes down to the testimony of one of the accident's survivors. Her name is Nicole (Sarah Polley) and what she says ensures that there will be no winners.
Egoyan's film is as much a commentary on survivor's guilt as it is about the dark secrets a town can hold even though everything appears proper on the outside. It is a film about heartbreak and facades and how life can be so unfair. Yet, the film feels distant. While the various story arcs are well-defined and acted, I found it difficult to become immersed in the world I was watching. The film felt too muted and devoid of an emotional spark.Read more ›
It tells the story of a small town in Canada that suffers a tragic bus accident, losing most of its children and as a result, losing much of its happiness and joy. A lawyer, who in a way, has lost his own daughter too, is visiting the town. He tries to persuade the victims' parents, to join in a class action lawsuit.
Through his visit, we gradually learn about the people's lonely and sad lives before and after the accident. We also realize how this case is just the outlet of the anger the lawyer feels about his own life.
The film is really depressing, but it achieves in that you never feel manipulated. Its director, Atom Egoyan, helped by a superb script, never goes for the easy tears and cheap emotions.
As for the cast, Ian Holm, portraying the lawyer, and Sarah Polley (also starring in "Go!"), who plays a survivor of the accident, stand out. Holm is a revelation in a monologue, describing the incident when his daughter almost died of a spider bite. Polley uses her expressive face and eyes extensively, to reveal all her troubled emotions.
Other high points of the film include the excellent music score which follows faithfully the atmosphere, the photography, with the images of the surrounding frozen mountains, providing a successful parallelism with the parents' tortured psyches, and the use of Robert Browning's poem "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" as a powerful metaphor.
Most recent customer reviews
except for the parasitic lawyer, a wonderful story about communityPublished 8 months ago by Dr. Doug Powers
I have not seen this Sarah Polley Bruce Greenwood film for years but boy is it worth the upgrade This seperates the true Canadian film/Canadian directors fans; from those who blow... Read morePublished on Feb. 11 2014 by Ken M.
The Sweet Hereafter is more a work of art than a film, and that in itself will put off some people. Its a slow moving, dreary, and depressing motion picture, full of real people,... Read morePublished on June 20 2004 by Mister Twain
the commentary by russell banks made the movie more interesting and enjoyable. from the sound of the dvd, the director will be patting himself on the back well into his sweet... Read morePublished on May 30 2004
_The Sweet Hereafter_ by Russell Banks and _The Sweet Hereafter_ directed by Ian Holm are somewhat akin, save for the final chapter of the book. Read morePublished on April 30 2004 by Shaun Lee
This quiet, subtle and gripping movie is an impressive work about death, grief, change, secrets and communities, a strong, moving and complex cinematic experience. Read morePublished on March 4 2004 by gonn1000
I love yellow school buses. The cheap plastic seats that your legs would stick to on the way to summer camp on a hot July morning. Read morePublished on Feb. 9 2004 by jason gilmour
I can't fathom anyone watching this movie through without being deeply moved, at times disturbed, and shaken to some degree. Read morePublished on Jan. 16 2004 by Bruce Kendall
I am dissapointed by movies, as a general rule. Few movies, even independent ones, dare to speak about anything but the obvious. Some movies have great acting and visual style. Read morePublished on Nov. 11 2003 by Francois Tremblay