Friday, December 15, 2017

The Sweet Hereafter Movie Review

The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
Rent The Sweet Hereafter on Amazon Video
Written by: Russell Banks (novel), Atom Egoyan (screenplay)
Directed by: Atom Egoyan
Starring: Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, Caerthan Banks, Bruce Greenwood
Rated: R
Watch the trailer

A school bus accident in a small town devastates the community, but the resulting class-action lawsuit becomes even more divisive.

This puts a bunch of broken characters on screen and explores loss and grief. It's a small story with a lot of depth and far reaching impact. This isn't a lawyer being a hero or a villain, he's a conflicted man looking into the case. The event happens much later than I expected, but it maximizes the impact. This movie could easily blame different people, but instead focuses on grief, making it incredibly human and painful.
Watch it.

This cuts back and forth in time, building the relationships of people in the town. I assumed this would get into the crash much sooner, but it happens later in the film. It really sets up this moment we know is coming. It's bleak and depicted in an understated manner, avoiding sensational images.

A lawyer comes to town to put together a class action lawsuit. While he stands to profit, he's not depicted as bad or good, he's just doing a job that isn't always pretty. There's an interesting juxtaposition between the lawyer's drug addicted daughter and the parent's he's putting together for the case. The lawyer has slowly lost his daughter to drugs. You wonder if prolonged heartbreak over losing your child is worse than it happening in an instant. It was quick and painful for his potential clients, but dull and long for him. He isn't even sure how she became estranged. You can see how this weighs on him in almost every scene. On a flight, he happens to sit next to a woman that knew his daughter. He doesn't want to lie, but he also doesn't want to get into details.

The Pied Piper story also weaves throughout the movie, working on multiple levels. Nicole, one of the surviving crash victims reads the story while baby sitting, and the verses echo throughout the rest of the movie. The parents affected by the accident are following a tale on money. Nicole was lured by her father into a morally wrong situation. Then there are parents that want the lawyer to leave.

The movie does a lot, bringing this small town to life. It isn't idyllic and everything revolves around this painful tragedy. It's a showcase of what film can do. A movie could easily focus on the accident and its lurid details, casting blame on all parties, but this movie shows the crash from a wide angle, focusing on the resulting grief, refusing to cast blame.

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