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The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

R | | Drama | 21 November 1997 (USA)
0:31 | Trailer

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A bus crash in a small town brings a lawyer to the town to defend the families, but he discovers that everything is not what it seems.



(novel), (screenplay)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 33 wins & 52 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Caerthan Banks ...
Tom McCamus ...
Kirsten Kieferle ...
Earl Pastko ...
David Hemblen ...
Sarah Rosen Fruitman ...


A small community is torn apart by a tragic accident which kills most of the town's children. A lawyer 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 paralyzed by its anger and cannot let go. All but one young girl, left in a wheelchair after the accident, who finds the courage to lead the way toward healing. Written by Matthew Tichenor <mticheno@direct.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

bus | lawyer | child | anger | school | See All (197) »


There is no such thing as the simple truth. See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexuality and some language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



Release Date:

21 November 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El dulce porvenir  »

Box Office


CAD 5,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$31,149 (USA) (10 October 1997)


$4,306,697 (USA) (3 April 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


As indicated on Atom Egoyan's commentary track on the DVD, many people ask about the odd mask worn by the note-taker during the deposition scene. This is a Stenographer's Mask, an item which is used in real-life for the stenographer to record her own voice during the deposition. See more »


When Stephens visits the Ottos, and Mr. Otto offers him some tea, we hear a teakettle whistling but the one we see on the cooker is not the whistling type. See more »


Sam: Nicole, tomorrow Mr. Stephens wants you to make your deposition at the community center. Thought I'd take you over.
Nicole: Great.
Sam: You seem, uh, I don't know. Distant, I guess. Hard to talk to.
Nicole: We didn't used to have to talk a lot, did we Daddy?
Sam: What do you mean?
Nicole: I mean, I'm a wheelchair girl now. And it's hard to pretend that I'm a beautiful rock star. Remember, Daddy? That beautiful stage that you were gonna build for me. You were gonna light it with nothing but candles.
See more »


Referenced in The Making of 'Ararat' (2003) See more »


Words and Music by The Tragically Hip
Courtesy of Universal Music/Ball Music, Inc. and Little Smoke Music, Inc.
Performed by The Tragically Hip
See more »

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User Reviews

The master work of a great humanist director.
30 September 1999 | by (Helsinki, Finland.) – See all my reviews

When it comes to drama, The Sweet Hereafter represents the finest cinema of the decade. The film lifts the director Atom Egoyan to the highest place of Canadian directors -right next to David Cronenberg. With extraordinary intelligence, Egoyan -the maker of "Exotica"- creates labyrinths of relationships. Brilliantly using flashbacks the director reveals the emotions of the characters to the viewers -a powerful way to make the audience feel anxiety.

The Sweet Hereafter is based on a novel by Russell Banks. This doesn't mean that Egoyan hasn't created a film that looks like his own creation. Very beautifully, even with a sense of poetry, the camera moves in a canadian small-town, a scenery full of snow. The nicely unusual music of Mychael Danna creates the mood when a lawyer played by Ian Holm arrives to the town. A School bus lies under ice, and the lawyer is invited to sue someone for the loss of several children.

A very important slice of the scenario belongs to a school girl (Sarah Polley), who realizes that the grief of loss can't be eased by judging the cause of it. Also the other people of the town play a remarkable role in the script.

Egoyan speaks clearly, but with a sound of personality, about the need of love, the pain of loneliness and the crossing of emotional obstacles. Fortunately someone knows how to direct interesting movies with elements of drama in them. The Sweet Hereafter possesses a brilliant structure where the visual telling breaths in the spirit of symbolism. I'm a very demanding viewer, a true cynic who always tries to find the worst sides of the film, but in this case I can't say anything negative.

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