the fresh films reviews

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The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

Directed by:
Atom Egoyan


Den søte ettertid

112 minutes

Produced by:
Atom Egoyan
Camelia Frieberg
Written by (based on the novel by Russell Banks):
Atom Egoyan

Cast includes:

Mitchell Stevens Ian Holm
Nicole Burnell Sarah Polley
Billy Ansel Bruce Greenwood
Sam Burnell Tom McCamus ½
Risa Walker Alberta Walker -
Wanda Otto Arsinée Khanjian
Dolores Driscoll Gabrielle Rose ½
Wendell Walker Maury Chaykin
Abbott Driscoll David Hemblen
Hartley Otto Earl Pastko -
Schwartz Peter Donaldson -
Mary Burnell Brooke Johnson -



Atom Egoyan's dissection of the aftermath of a catastrophic school bus accident in a small town in British Columbia, Canada is a slow-burning, bleak drama about the human condition. Nuanced characters and a realistic portrayal of mourning and vengefulness is what makes The Sweet Hereafter powerful and almost unbearable in equal measure. Egoyan is unapologetic in his approach; he wants you to feel the characters' despair and hopelessness. And he wants to shed light on the moral ambiguity of the battle fought by our protagonist Mitchell Stevens (Ian Holm). Like the members of the community he seeks out to help, he too has lost a child in a way, and so his desire to place guilt and seek redemption is also his own personal struggle. The film walks a fine line between subtlety and insistence, but mostly falls down on the right side. Egoyan lets his characters play it all out for him, and to the degree it shakes you and spits you out, you don't feel the cynisism of story, only of some of the characters we meet along the way, but you certainly feel the toll. This is not movie-making for those seeking entertainment or aesthetics; it's all about dramatic power. Ian Holm finds the right tone for his performance – you cling onto the hope that his moral compass is correctly aligned. Also with strong supporting work from Sarah Polley and Bruce Greenwood. The Sweet Hereafter won the Grand Prix of the jury at Cannes in 1997.

Re-reviewed: Copyright © 11.11.2023 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright © 30.05.2000 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang