The Sweet Hereafter

28  NOV
There is no such thing as the simple truth.

Directed by  Atom Egoyan
Written by  Russell Banks, Atom Egoyan
Starring:  Ian Holm (Mitchell Stephens)
Sarah Polley (Nicole Burnell)
Tom McCamus (Sam Burnell)
Bruce Greenwood (Billy Ansell)
Gabrielle Rose (Dolores Driscoll)
Runtime: 110 minutes
A small community is torn apart by a tragic accident which kills most of the town's children. A Lawyer (Ian Holm) visits the victims' parents in order to profit from the tragedy by stirring up the their anger and launching a class action suit against anyone they can blame. The community is paralysed by their anger and cannot let go. All but one young girl (Sarah Polley), left in a wheelchair after the accident, who finds the courage to lead the way to The Sweet Hereafter. - Matthew Tichenor

Layed out as a sort of investigation about the causes of a dramatic accident (14 children died in a bus crash), The Sweet Hereafter features one of the most complex story and narration I've ever seen in a movie. In fact it is organised over various time frames, some before and some after the accident (which is actually shown only in the middle of the movie) and features a lot of quick time shifts (not simple flashbacks) which makes it difficult, at first, to tell the correct sequence of the events.

The bus accident is only the base of the story which is far more articulated and analyses both the personal problems of the lawyer who is in charge of the investigation (his daughter is drug-addicted) and the various affairs of the people of the small town where the dead children lived (including incestous or outside marriage relationships). Various branches of the story are even left open at the end of the movie which grants some scope for personal interpretation and discussion.

This movie is supported by an exceptionally good photography and by many aerial shots of the fascinating snow-covered landscape. Everything is surrounded by a well-chosen soundtrack and by the discontinuous reading of "The Pied Piper of Hamlin" which gives a strong metaphorical view of the story.

The main weakness is probably the fact that the movie seems to fail to convey to the audience the immense grief of the characters and the sense of loss that prevades the story, so, while it is definitely a sad film, I hardly felt sorrowful while I was watching it. I'm not saying that it is uninteresting but unfortunately the main source of attention is in the way the plot is organised and not in the story of the characters as I believe it should be, considering the delicate topics and the deep feelings involved.

A final note for Twin Peaks fans (including myself obviously!): something dramatic happens in a small town, a stranger goes there in order to investigate and discovers that most of the inhabitants of such a peaceful place have some mysteries and double-lifes. Does this remind you anything?

Rating: 7.5  ****

Links:  Official Site




© Copyright Sergio Monesi, 1997-1999.
Last updated: 25 Jun 1999