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The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
The Sweet Hereafter is 1997 Canadian drama movie based on a novel by Russell Banks of the same name. The screen play is written and directed by critically acclaimed director Atom Egoyon . The Film stars Ian Holm, Sarah Polly, Bruce Greenwood, AlbertaWatson, Simon Baker, Marc Donato, Broke Johnson, Maury Chaykin, Stephanie Morgenstern, Carthain Banks, Tom MeCamus, Russell Banks (cameo) and Gabrielle Rose.
The Sweet Hereafter tells the story of a horrible school bus crashing accident that killed numerous local children. Their shattered and grieving parents are approached by a lawyer Mitchell Stevens (Ian Holm) who is hunted by the problems of his own, he wants them to file a class action lawsuit to sue for the damages by claiming the bus was faulty. Some of the parents at first are unwilling but they are persuaded by Mitchel Stevens that suing for damages is the right thing to do, some parents shows interest only because of the big settlement and some parents just want justice to be done.
As most of the children are dead the case mainly depends only on 3 people that witnessed the accident, the bus driver Dolores Driscoll (Gabrielle Rose), Nicole Burnell (Sarah Polly) who was sitting at the front of the bus and who is now paralyzed below the waist because of the bus crashing accident and Billy (Bruce Greenwood) who was following the bus. Dolores Driscoll is willing to help to prove it wasn't her fault, Nicole Burnell is reluctant at first but agrees to help only on a condition that she wouldn't lie but Billy who lost 2 kids in the accident is against the lawsuit and tries to convince other parents to drop the lawsuit but nobody listens to him and tells him to stay out of it. In the pretrial deposition, Nicole Burnell lies and accuses the bus driver Dolores Driscoll of over speeding and thus causing the accident. After doing so all the hopes of suing the bus company with the possibility of big settlement disappears. The intention behind Nicole's lie is to punish her father who was sexually abusing her before the crash. Everybody that suffered from the accident or those who are involved in the case knows that Nicole is lying but nothing can be done and the trial never takes place.
The story of the movie unfolds in non chronological order it jumps back and forth from one plot to another many times and loses the momentum. At first it was OK but after a while it was hard to watch because it never focused on the main story. In start we are introduced to several characters and each character has a story of its own. There are many different events besides the crash, which distracts the attention from the main plot. Mitchell Stevens daughter Zoe is a drug addict and she hates her father but its never explained what she hates him for also by the end of the movie Zoe tests positive for a blood test and its not explained what the test was for aids, pregnancy or something else. Also Zoe at first is shown as a homeless druggie but by the end she is well dressed. Billy has an affair with Risa (Alberta Watson) who is married to Windol (Maury Chaykin) but its never told why Risa is cheating on Windol or why can't she just leave him if she doesn't love him. Billy has also lost 2 kids in the accident but he is against the lawsuit because he knows it was just an accident and according to him it's wrong to sue for the damages but isn't it wrong to have an affair with a married woman? In the start of the movie its shown that Nicole loves her father (Sam MeCamus) and that they have a nice father daughter relationship but halfway its shown that Nicole is sexually abused by her father and by the end of the movie its shown that she hates him and therefor in order to punish him she lies and accuses an innocent person for the bus crash. Dolores Driscoll is held responsible for the accident because of over speeding but at the end of the movie she is back to driving some kind of airport passenger bus, how can she be hired just after two years for driving again when she is held responsible for the bus crash. Even the movie poster is taken from a scene that has nothing to do with the main plot of the movie.
Ian Holm as Mitchel Stevens is a bit over dramatic at times but overall he plays the character nicely. Sarah Polly as Nicole Burnell does justice to her character and changes her facial expressions from a sweet to a serious bitter teen. Bruce Greenwood as Billy is convening, apart from Ion Holm, Sarah Polly and Bruce Greenwood all other actors are flat and plain and no one seems to be convincing enough in their respective characters.
Atom Egoyon screenplay is too weak and confusing, he fails in directing The Sweet hereafter, he doesn't uses the right tone and right timing to introduce the characters and unfolds the story in non chronological order which only confuses the audience with all those subplots, The only good thing about his directing is choosing the beautiful locations for shoot. Cinematography is beautifully done by Paul Sarossy.
Almost all of the main characters have a story, which is never explained, their personal stories are never given the depth they needed. I hardly see any place for those untold personal stories in the movie but they are introduced which drags the attention from the main plot and half way through the movie I didn't care for the accident and just wanted the movie to finish.