The Sweet Hereafter (film)
|The Sweet Hereafter|
The Sweet Hereafter Canadian DVD cover
|Directed by||Atom Egoyan|
|Produced by||Atom Egoyan
|Written by||Russell Banks (novel)
|Music by||Mychael Danna|
|Editing by||Susan Shipton|
|Distributed by||Fine Line Features|
|Running time||112 minutes|
Life is difficult in a small town in British Columbia in the wake of a terrible school bus accident in which numerous local children are killed. Hardly able to cope with the loss, their grieving parents are approached by a lawyer, Mitchell Stephens (Ian Holm), who wants them to sue for damages by claiming the bus was faulty. Stephens is aware that urging for a class action suit while the town is so aggrieved is ethically questionable, but persists anyway. He is meanwhile haunted by his dysfunctional relationship with his own adult daughter, a drug addict. At first most of the parents are reluctant to sue, but eventually they are persuaded by Stephens that filing a class action lawsuit would ease their minds and also be the right thing to do.
As most of the children are dead, the case now depends on the few surviving witnesses to say the right things in court. In particular, it is 15-year-old Nicole Burnell (Sarah Polley), who was sitting at the front of the bus and is now paralyzed from the waist down, whose deposition is all-important. Before the accident, Nicole was a budding country music prodigy and she senses that her parents want justice and a large cash settlement to replace her lost music earnings—and not necessarily in that order. In the pretrial deposition, she unexpectedly accuses driver Dolores Driscoll (Gabrielle Rose) of speeding and thus causing the accident. When she does so, all hopes of holding the bus company liable vanish along with the possibility of a big settlement. It is implied that Nicole's motivation was partly to punish her father, who was sexually abusing her. Those involved know that Nicole is lying but can do nothing. The trial never occurs, leaving the townspeople, and Stephens, to cope in other ways with the uncertain future.
- Ian Holm as Mitchell Stephens (lawyer)
- Caerthan Banks as Zoe Stephens (daughter)
- Sarah Polley as Nicole Burnell (victim)
- Tom McCamus as Sam Burnell (father)
- Brooke Johnson as Mary Burnell (mother)
- Alberta Watson as Risa Walker (parent)
- Maury Chaykin as Wendell Walker (parent)
- Bruce Greenwood as Billy Ansel (parent)
- Gabrielle Rose as Dolores Driscoll (bus driver)
- David Hemblen as Abbott Driscoll (husband))
- Arsinée Khanjian as Wanda Otto (parent)
- Earl Pastko as Hartley Otto (parent)
- Stephanie Morgenstern as Allison O'Donnell (airline passenger)
- Mychael Danna as Live band harmonium player (uncredited)
See article on the novel.
Banks approved of Egoyan's adaptation, playing a role in the film as the town doctor, and discussing the film with Egoyan in the DVD's commentary track. Not only did Banks approve of the adaptation, but he also freely admitted that this was one instance in which the film was better than the book.
In adapting the novel, Egoyan changed the setting from Upstate New York to Canada. Another major change is Egoyan's addition of references to the story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning, which Nicole is seen reading to children who later die in the accident. In that story, the Pied Piper leads all the children away, never to return, after their parents refuse to honour their debt to him. The only child left in the now-childless town is a crippled child who was unable to follow the Piper's song and now wishes he could have gone with the other children. In the movie, the survivor, Nicole, clearly identifies with this child, in contrast to her motivation in the novel where she is primarily acting out of anger against her father.
Polley's character, Nicole, was an aspiring singer before the accident, and is seen on stage at various points in the film performing both The Tragically Hip's "Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)" and Jane Siberry's "One More Colour". The Tragically Hip's original version of "Courage" also appears in the film.
The film received overwhelming critical acclaim upon its release. It holds a rare 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 8.9/10 based on 53 reviews, and a 100% rating based on 15 "Top Critic" reviews. In 2002, readers of Playback voted it the greatest Canadian film ever made. In 2004, the Toronto International Film Festival ranked it fourth in the Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time.
The Sweet Hereafter won three awards at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival: the FIPRESCI Prize, the Grand Prize of the Jury, and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. It won Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Actor (Holm), and three other prizes at the Genie Awards. It was also nominated for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 70th Academy Awards, but lost to Titanic and L.A. Confidential, respectively.
- "The Sweet Hereafter (1997) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
- "Filming Locations for The Sweet Hereafter". The Internet Movie Database (IMDB). Retrieved 2007-01-15.
- Rotten Tomatoes Review, http://www.rottentomatoes.com/, retrieved 09/13/2009
- Playback's all-time best movies list, http://www.playbackonline.ca/, retrieved 09/13/2009
- "Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time," The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2012, URL accessed 28 April 2013.
- "Festival de Cannes: The Sweet Hereafter". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
- The Sweet Hereafter at the Internet Movie Database
- The Sweet Hereafter at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Sweet Hereafter at Metacritic
- Film reviews
- Script of movie