A community in British Columbia, Canada suffers a tragedy when a school bus crashes, killing many of its children. 

4
A delicate, exquisite drama with beautiful performances.

The Sweet Hereafter is the first film made by Canadian Atom Egoyan not based on his own writings. He's adapted Russell Banks' novel to explore a tragic situation. In the town of Sam Dent in British Columbia, grief lies palpably in the snow. A school bus has crashed into a frozen lake killing 14 of the 22 children it was carrying. Lawyer Mitchell Stephens (Ian Holm) arrives to stir up litigation. He's dealing with his own personal loss – his daughter is an inaccessible drug addict. By a complex and at times elusive use of shifting time frames we learn that one of the survivors, wheelchair bound Nicole, had an incestuous relationship with her father Sam and dreams of marrying Billy, the widower for whom she babysits. Billy is having an affair with Risa, the wife of the motel owner. Stephens teeters on the verge of being an ambulance-chasing lawyer but his quest is almost like an act of penance.

a really fine film



This is a really fine film. Delicate, exquisite, with beautiful performances from a cast including Egoyan regulars, his wife Arsinee Khanjian and Bruce Greenwood, and a deeply textured performance from the film's central focus Ian Holm. Egoyan's skill and ingenuity are unquestioned. But it wasn't only the landscape that sent a certain chill through me, Egoyan is intent on not exploiting this potentially deeply emotional situation in any way. He wants to work on our emotions through our intellect. And yet his material here is so explosively emotional – the death and maiming of children, the abuse of a child, the loss of a child through drugs, the devastation of a community through a communal loss. So even though I admired The Sweet Hereafter I wish I could have been affected by it just a bit more.