The Sweet Hereafter Movie Review

It's been over two years since Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan first came to my attention with his breakthrough film Exotica. Since then, I've become something of an aficionado of his works through home video, and it was with breathless anticipation that I awaited what was sure to be the movie that pushed him into the mainstream: The Sweet Hereafter.

Maybe I over-hyped it in my mind, becoming too hopeful in the face of overwhelming praise for the film. Or maybe I know Egoyan's tricks too well by now. Either way, I left the film extremely pleased but depressed: partly because the movie is such a downer, and partly because I know Egoyan can do even better.

This time around, Atom uses his multiple time-line storytelling to relay the events surrounding the tragedy when a school bus careens off an icy road in a sleepy town in the Great White North. When lawyer Ian Holm swoops in to build a negligence case against the bus manufacturer and the city, he becomes the unwitting agent as the revealer of the dirty secrets that everyone within seems to hide.

It almost sounds like David Lynch territory, and without his trademark glorious revelation--a scene the binds all the characters' lives together and which Egoyan traditionally ends his films with--it almost is. Instead of pumping up the mystery, Egoyan has opted for a slower pace of gradually revealing the secrets behind the facade... something that probably makes the film more accessible to the masses, but is less pleasing on the whole. Then again, Holm is in the role of his life here, and the movie is absolutely worth seeing if only for his performance.

Don't get me wrong. The Sweet Hereafter is a riveting film, one that I encourage you to see, as long as you aren't feeling suicidal, as it really is deeply depressing. At the same time, I also urge you to check out Exotica, Calendar, and The Adjuster on home video. If nothing else, you'll come out feeling normal, no matter how nuts you really are.

Holm goes home.


The Sweet Hereafter Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 1997


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