Atom Egoyan, Alliance Communications Corporation, 1997.
Starring: Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, Tom McCamus, Gabrielle Rose and Bruce Greenwood.
Usually I start off my reviews with a question in order to evoke some sort of correlation that people may have with a plot line. This is done to entice them to watch the film or have some understanding of the story. For me, I see many correlations to my life in the movies I view. But I just finished The Sweet Hereafter and I am almost dumbfounded, paralyzed by this story that I can't ask a question without getting overly emotional. That is not to say I connected to anything specific with this movie, which I didn't; but this was just not a happy story and it did not have a Hollywood ending, if you catch my meaning. So I am skipping the question section this time.
I'm almost at a loss on where to start, but I suppose I could tell you where I first heard about The Sweet Hereafter. A couple of months ago it was time to discuss soundtracks on my blog. You know the top 100 list that I randomly post? I ended up looking at the next soundtrack on the list and did a posting after hearing some of the songs and researching the film. There was one song in particular - "Courage" - that really stood out for me. The Sweet Hereafter. (soundtrack link)
After listening to the song I put it on my Netflix queue immediately. It finally arrived on Saturday. I watched it the next day but now I am mulling over on how to describe this film. Why? First, I don't usually review movies older than a few years and The Sweet Hereafter came out 1997. Second, I alluded to this earlier but it is a heavy subject matter that I hope no one can relate to because the thoughts this one could bring up in others is something I would never wish on anyone.
In simple terms, The Sweet Hereafter shows the aftermath of a tragic school bus accident that took place in a rural Canadian community where most of the children in the town are killed; but I will say there was so much more than that. Yes, the accident was a hard enough topic but once that happened more is revealed with the people in the community and with the lawyer who comes to town to initiate a lawsuit.
We, as audience members, are witnesses to the lawyer's family issues throughout the movie, which are destroying him. Then we also see a few of the town's family secrets. One particular family had a secret so horrible that I feel I have to warn you - if you are of a weak disposition you might want to skip this movie. However, except for a brief scene there isn't much shown but the implications are horrendous. On the flip side, there was some sort of vindication, I think.
All-in-all I enjoyed, if that is the appropriate term, The Sweet Hereafter. The acting was superb and the story telling puts your emotions through a tumble but with restraint and finesse that you rarely witness on screen. Many films pull you into the sadness or pain of the characters but then helps you back out of their darkness. However, like real life, sometimes the darkness stays with you for the long haul.
Will this review make you want to see this film? I do not know; but I do realize sometimes it is worth seeing film-makers tackle subject matters that are normally taboo with such respect and authenticity. Too often in modern cinema stories are portrayed falsely or so overwrought with emotional details that it seems insincere. This film did not. For that alone I recommend The Sweet Hereafter.
Based on the novel by Russell Banks. He also wrote Affliction, which also became a movie starring Nick Nolte.
My favorite thing: The use of the story of The Pied Piper spoken throughout the entire film. Plus, Ian Holm's and Bruce Greenwood's performances were outstanding.
My least favorite thing: The relationship between one father and his daughter.
Length: 112 minutes
Review: 9 out of 10
Click below to view film or order soundtrack: