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 <email@example.com>
Premiere Magazine voted this movie as one of "The 25 Most Dangerous Movies". (In the description for the list, the magazine stated, "These are movies about which you could say, 'That's not entertainment'. They're not 'rides' nor 'diversions'. They are galvanizing experiences that place squarely in your face all the stuff Hollywood usually presumes you go to the movies to get away from. Films that rearrange your head, that challenge your bedrock ideas about life and love and the big sleep. Consciousness-expanders, in other words, but rarely in a pleasant way. Thank God for them.") See more »
In at least one scene, speeds were mentioned in "miles per hour". For a film set in British Columbia, km/h would have been much more likely. See more »
I remember wrenching the steering wheel to the right and slapping my foot against the brake petal. I wasn't the driver anymore. The bus was like this huge wave about to break over us. Bear Otto, the Lambston kids, the Hamiltons, the Prescotts, the teenaged boys and girls from Bartlett Hill Road, Pete, Suzy, Laura, Rick, Sean Walker, Nicole Burnell, Billy Ansel's twins, Jessica and Mason... all the children of my town.
Then what happened?
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Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter is a drama of loss and internal conflict within and among the people of small town which has lost its children to a winter bus crash. The central figure is Mitchell Stephens (Ian Holm), a lawyer who comes to the town in the hope of putting together a lawsuit on behalf of the surviving families.
Egoyan drags bitter and emotional performances out of his excellent cast, and managed to make me fall in love with a group of characters who, on the surface, are less than appealing. Every major character in his adaptation of Russel Banks' novel is morally bifurcated and riven with doubt.
Particularly interesting from a social perspective is the treatment of Stephens' mission. I thought the lawyer's efforts to put together his suit were played even-handedly, somewhere between the greed of an ambulance-chaser cynically exploiting a local tragedy and the difficult but necessary effort to use a flawed legal system to achieve a kind of justice. But the friends who saw it with me saw Stephens strictly as a "slimeball," placed there to test and tempt the struggling townspeople. If that's the impression that most viewers get, then I'm disappointed.
Whatever your perspective on that social question, there's no denying the slow power of this film. It moves with the measured fascination of inevitability, and leaves you with a bitterness you can savor.
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