The Sweet Hereafter


D: Atom Egoyan

Alliance / Ego Film Arts (Atom Egoyan & Camelia Frieberg)

Canada 🇨🇦 1997

112 mins


W: Atom Egoyan [based on the novel by Richard Banks]

DP: Paul Sarossy

Ed: Susan Shipton

Mus: Mychael Danna

Ian Holm (Mitchell Stephens), Caerthan Banks (Zoe Stephens), Sarah Polley (Nicole Burnell), Tom McCamus (Sam Burnell), Brooke Johnson (Mary Burnell), Gabrielle Rose (Dolores Driscoll)

The Sweet Hereafter is a low-key, sombre Canadian film, based on a novel by Richard Banks, with many references to folk tale “The Pied Piper of Hamblin” which may require further reflection with a repeat viewing of the film.

The events unfold over two different timelines, the main one being Ian Holm’s lawyer coming to a small snow-covered town to investigate a school bus accident that killed 14 children, hoping that he can raise a class action case against the bus company responsible.  The second story that runs in unison are the events leading up to the crash, mostly from the point of view of Sarah Polley’s character, an aspiring singer with a sexually-abusive father.

The emphasis is mostly on the Ian Holm storyline, as his probing proves divisive in the small community, leading to family and personal arguments and an atmosphere of mistrust amongst the townsfolk.

It’s wonderfully acted, and Atom Egoyan’s direction and script never puts a step wrong, keeping the tragedy entrenched within the story uniquely subtle.

I’d have to say this is up there with 1997’s best movies.


Sarah Polley & Ian Holm in The Sweet Hereafter
Sarah Polley & Ian Holm in The Sweet Hereafter