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The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

R | | Drama | 21 November 1997 (USA)
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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.

Director:

Atom Egoyan

Writers:

Russell Banks (novel), Atom Egoyan (screenplay)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 33 wins & 53 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ian Holm ... Mitchell Stevens
Caerthan Banks Caerthan Banks ... Zoe Stevens
Sarah Polley ... Nicole Burnell
Tom McCamus ... Sam Burnell
Gabrielle Rose ... Dolores Driscoll
Alberta Watson ... Risa
Maury Chaykin ... Wendell
Stephanie Morgenstern ... Allison
Kirsten Kieferle ... Stewardess
Arsinée Khanjian ... Wanda
Earl Pastko Earl Pastko ... Hartley
Simon Baker ... Bear
David Hemblen ... Abbott
Bruce Greenwood ... Billy
Sarah Rosen Fruitman Sarah Rosen Fruitman ... Jessica
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Storyline

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 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

Taglines:

Sometimes courage comes from the most surprising places. See more »

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Canada

Language:

English

Release Date:

21 November 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El dulce porvenir See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

CAD 5,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$31,149, 10 October 1997

Gross USA:

$3,252,652
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Paul Gross auditioned for the role of Billy Ansel, but was passed over because of his looks. Atom Egoyan said in October 13, 1997 issue of the Canadian magazine Maclean's, "Paul is a very fine actor, and I was really close to casting him. The problem is that he is really good-looking. Paul is very pretty, Bruce (Greenwood) looked rougher." See more »

Goofs

When Stephens visits the Ottos, and Mr. Otto offers him some tea, we hear a tea kettle whistling but the one we see on the wood stove is not the whistling type, and there is no steam coming from the kettle. See more »

Quotes

Mitchell Stephens: Well, enough rage and helplessness and your love turns to something else.
Alison: What... does it turn to?
Mitchell Stephens: It turns to steaming piss.
See more »

Connections

Featured in In the Shadow of Hollywood (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

One More Colour
Words and Music by Jane Siberry
Courtesy of Wing in Music/Red Sky Music
Arranged by Mychael Danna
Vocal by Sarah Polley
Performed by The Sam Dent Band
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Not for everyone, but this melancholy film stays with you long after its over...
26 January 2000 | by janesbit1See all my reviews

I re-watched The Sweet Hereafter on video last night, and am still haunted by it today. It is structured so that you know some of the basic tragic plot near the beginning. This caused my eyes to water at some of the beautiful lyrical overhead tracking shots of the school bus winding through the snow covered roads of the Pacific northwest.

The film switches between the time that the lawyer arrives in town to "help" the families receive compensation, and to days just prior to the accident. We witness a loving "hippie" couple who has adopted a beautiful Native American boy, a loving mother of a school phobic learning disabled boy, and a widower who loves his two children a great deal and sees them off to school by following them in his truck. This same widower is having an affair with the mother of the school phobic--she is unhappily married to a "pig" of a husband. Complicating matters is the father who obviously loves his teenage daughter in Lolita-like fashion.

Part of the theme of The Sweet Hereafter is similar to Magnolia--accidents do happen--perhaps no one at fault... or perhaps all the adults had some part in it without anyone being at fault, as only the innocent children were killed.

The town had changed... tragedy has taken away the town's joy and innocence. The parents are no longer open with each other, but guarded, suspicious... in deep grief.

The lawyer is little more than an ambulance chaser, attempting to profit off their tragedy. Yet, he, too is a tragic figure who has already "lost" his daughter--

He had saved her when she was a baby, yet she has now turned away from him... and his feelings are now ambivalent towards her--he is a grief-stricken, defeated father, who vascillates between wanting to talk with his daughter on his cell phone and deciding to cut her off.

The story of the Pied Piper is interweaved between various events in the movie to give greater depth to the story. There's also a great scene in the movie between the lawyer and the garage mechanic, who has lost his two children, that shows that the theme is much broader than the literal story:

"I'm telling you this because... we've all lost our children, Mr. Ansel. They're dead to us. They kill each other in the streets. They wander comatose in shopping malls. They're paralyzed in front of televisions. Something terrible has happened that's taken our children away. It's too late. They're gone."

This movie isn't for everyone. It's a serious, layered piece with a lot of melancholy. The kind of fare that film critics can love, but Academy voters will avoid. But what it strives to accomplish is done very well. And it will stay with you long after the final scenes have appeared.


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