The Sweet Hereafter

Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
Director/Writer:Atom Egoyan
Director of Photography:Paul Sarossy
Editor:Susan Shipton
Music:Mychael Danna
Production Designer:Philip Barker
Producers:Atom Egoyan and Camelia Frieberg
Fine Line; NR; 110 minutes
Cast:Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, Bruce Greenwood, Tom McCamus, Gabrielle Rose, Arsinée Khanjian and Alberta Watson

It would be a huge injustice to say The Sweet Hereafter is simply about a town coping with its intense grief after a school-bus crash claims 14 young lives. Without a doubt, that is certainly weighty enough material for a feature film. But Egoyan's cerebral film emerges as a mystical, spiritual moral tale that leaves viewers reeling long after the closing credits. It's his understated, subtle style that makes the most impact. Egoyan's fragmented timeline reconstructs the already conflicted lives of the townspeople before, during and after the crash. Big city lawyer, Michael Stephens (Holm), arrives to the small, British Columbia town, urging the grief-stricken parents that someone must be held responsible for the tragedy. Stephens himself is no stranger to parental anguish. His drug-addicted daughter (Banks) desperately phones him at all hours. Most of the parents reluctantly embrace Stephens's call for revenge, others, most notably single father Billy Ansell (Greenwood), disregard him as a menacing outsider. Polley as a crash survivor gives a sweetly chilling performance. One of the most emotionally demanding films of the year, The Sweet Hereafter is also one of the best.

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