Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Sweet Hereafter

If you want to see director Atom Egoyan at the peak of his shape, watch The Sweet Hereafter. The film tackles many depressing subjects. However, while it leaves some questions unanswered, Egoyan makes the whole story stand on one leg with a graceful illustration of the pain that strikes the characters.

The story is centred on Mitchell Stevens (Ian Holm), a lawyer. He's trying to recruit residents of a small Canadian community in a class action suit against the makers of a bus. In fact, the latter went off the road and sank into an icy lake. Besides, the few who managed to survived are Nicole Burnell (Sarah Polley), a young student, and the bus driver (Gabrielle Rose).

Obviously, Mitchell doesn't see this as an opportunity to make money. As he tries to recruit the inhabitants of the small town into a class action suit, Mitchell sees that they're hit by a big pain and that some of them have some secrets. Furthermore, Mitchell also sees the reflection of his own personal pain, because his own daughter is a drug addict.

As you can see in the script, the film tackles many subjects and and develop itself into subplots. Needless to say that they all try to have a link with the central story, which means the bus accident. In the end, Egoyan's film is not much about a bus accident, the pain striking a small Canadian town or the personal problems of Mitchell.

This means that with its silence and implicit suggestions, this adaptation of a novel by Russell Banks rather superficially deals with the bus accident, the townspeople's bereavement and Mitchell's problems with his daughter. In fact, by giving us just enough informations on the subplots, Egoyan elegantly illustrates the sad side of life that awaits us all, that desire in each of us to find the roots of our problems and our powerlessness when they try to solve them. All in all, with its well chosen cast, The Sweet Hereafter is a tragedy that teaches us one lesson: whether the characters do something significant to illuminate their life, they must move on.

Finally, although the film doesn't always say much about the characters, Atom Egoyan's beautiful script didn't need improvement. In fact, the script is left to our intelligence to analyze it. Moreover, Ian Holm (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) and Sarah Polley deliver a solid performance.

Rating: 5/5

Origin:Canada (1997)
Length:112 minutes
Screenplay:Atom Egoyan
Director:Atom Egoyan
Starring:Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, Tom McCamus and Bruce Greenwood

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