Projections - Movie Reviews

The Sweet Hereafter

Is it better to be in The Sweet Hereafter or alive in the drug culture?  Mitchell Stephens (Ian Holm), an attorney, experiences the pain of losing his daughter to drugs as he observes the parents of Sam Dent, of British Columbia, following a school bus accident which kills 14 of their children.

Inserting himself into the tragedy, Stephens is looking for business.  His presence forces wedges between the families and it becomes the device used by director/writer Atom Egoyan to explore the effects of the fatal school bus accident on the small Canadian town.

The wounds are slow to surface as Stephens rakes the grieving families for clients.  Each parent brings a different pain and motivation to the fray and one child's relationship with her father is forever fractured as she becoms the critical factor in the success of the suit.

Told in flashbacks, hauting memories of the children continually appear.  They are vibrant, troubled and innocent.  The bus driver sums up the tragedy when she states: "He would have been a wonderful man" as she describes one young child.

All the strengths and weaknesses of human beings are played out slowly and realistically underEgoyan's direction.  He folds jealousy, greed, incest, pride, anger, pain and confusion together into an intimate portrait of average people attempting to cope with collective and individual pain. He is neither sympathetic nor judgmental.  He simply follows them from day to day as they hope for healing.

The warmth and intimacy of Egoyan's work has gained the film a well-deserved Academy Award nomination.

It is rated R for nudity and adult language.

The Sweet Hereafter


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