The Sweet Hereafter - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Sweet Hereafter Reviews

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Super Reviewer
May 8, 2016
There are individual scenes that work so, so well (Anytime Bruce Greenwood is onscreen, Holm's monologues about his daughter, Polley's closing scene/voice over speech etc.) but the whole feels a bit lacking and the constant referencing of the "Pied Piper" legend is a bit much.
April 18, 2016
There aren't many films that unfold with a true grace, like a bird spreading it's wings in a beautifully restrained manner. "The Sweet Hereafter" is one of them, it is an engrossing film that doesn't rely on emotional manipulation to effect it's viewer, it tells a tale like it is, and in the end, that is exactly what makes it so good. The film studies a small Canadian town in the face of tragedy, and carefully layers a series of intertwining stories involving a handful of locals who have all been impacted by the occurence. Every character seems to have a normal life at first, but as the film progresses, it becomes clear that they do not. They are emotionally void people who all harbour secrets and lies, and as much as they want to believe what they're doing is right, deep down they know it's not. Intense emotions of guilt and grief run through them, but for unusual reasons. "The Sweet Hereafter" examines the things that surface after the wake of a tragedy, after the eminent shock and sorrow, how people's lives become so deteriorated and barren. The film skillfully uses different perspectives, places and time to explore the span of everything involved, asking why some things in the universe are out of our control, and if they happen for a reason. I was impressed with the film's meticulous structure, every frame is measured delicately to maximise it's power, and it works 100 percent of the time. From stark to striking, it's visuals work just as well as it's intellect. Ok, so Russell Bank's novel is a bit clearer, but Atom Egoyan's take on it is just as effective, if not more. Another thing that makes this film shine are it's performances, Sarah Polley and Ian Holme are both superb, both exude with a gentle sadness that genuinely convinces. In all, "The Sweet Hereafter" is a film that needs to be seen, it is a beautifully realised and haunting film that's virtually impossible to forget.
April 16, 2016
Very Good Movie Sarah Polley is great as always.
½ November 5, 2015
Many elements are well done: staging, lighting, timing, acting, etc. Some of it was remarkable eerie. But it wanders and drags and little is resolved by the time its over.
½ October 24, 2015
Good movies goes underrated and some has the luck to be in higher places !
September 3, 2015
Possibly one of hte best movies I've ever seen EEgoyan's Sweet Hereafter is a heartbreaking movie and a brilliant one, subtle, deeply layered and powerful. The touching story of a town's tragedy and the equally tragic, broken lawyer trying to exploit it is slow paced, deliberate and filled with top notch acting. Egoyan uses every trick in the book but does it seamlessly: slow pans, odd angles and courtroom procedural tropes mix in an incredible cinematic melange spearheaded by a stunning Ian Holm in probably the best performance from his long and cherished career.

The Sweet hereafter is a masterpiece of cinema, without being an eyerollingly 'arthouse' experience and it should be seen by all.
½ July 23, 2015
This is about as bad a movie as can be made. Made worse by Rotten Tomatoes listing it in their top 50 of all time. Eventually shut this made for TV drivel off. Just painfully acted. Painfully bad!
½ July 14, 2015
Such an emotionally impactful movie. Sarah Polly at her best. This movie moved me.
½ April 18, 2015
Boring, meandering garbage
½ December 16, 2014
Many films deal with the suffering that we endure after tragedy, but few hit as hard or haunt us as long as "The Sweet Hereafter".
June 12, 2014
A powerful and haunting film that is never going to leave your head no matter what may happen.
½ June 3, 2014
A drama movie with a deep plot but slow paced.
May 1, 2014
Atom Egoyan's true masterpiece, also the best film Ian Holm and Sarah Polley have appeared in. A brilliant film about a school bus crash that devastates a small British Columbia community, the lawyer whose presence roils those involved, and secrets that emerge in the aftermath. Absolute must-see.
April 27, 2014
Visually appealing film about despair. Not an uplifter but an interesting story.
½ April 10, 2014
The great reviews lured me to this movie. The story here is so boring that I didn't care about any of the characters by the second half of the movie.
April 2, 2014
Magnificent direction. Brilliant narrative and a speechless treatment. The Sweet Hereafter ripples through your thoughts with its intelligence and the grace in Atom Egoyan's daunting treatment of the concept.
The Sweet Hereafter studies the life of a few individuals of a community in the aftermath of a school bus accident while an aged lawyer posses as a guardian angel seeking to take advantage of their vulnerability and use the tragedy befallen in an attempt to provide a meaning for his existence.
The narration also examines the changes in the relationship between the tight knit community, as the wound inflicted by the tragedy are deepened when the lawyer unites the vulnerable parents for a lawsuit as the relationships in the community fall apart, seemingly for the good.
The legendary fable "Pied Piper of Hamelin' provides as a medium of narration through it's stark similarity with the concept of the story.
Time periods fluctuate, as Egoyan explore the basic principles of the various individuals' emotional state and how sometimes these emotions itself take control over one's self without their conscience appealing.
It also seen how to escape them, a person occupies themselves by devoting to a cause as probable attempt to create temporary safe haven from all the distress. Raw emotions are projected subtly but powerfully which proves to be a major success in the construction of the idea.
Fear. Apathy. Disgust. Repentance. Sorrow. Misery. Remorse.
Egoyan builds up a vortex of emotions as we get sucked into it through the hypnotic direction.

One of the best films in any language. Remarkable direction and screenplay.
Captivating and at the same time
, unsettling.
March 14, 2014
A stunningly real look into a tragedy that shakes a small town. Atom Egoyan's spliced timeline makes for riveting drama as you watch the past, present, and future unfold. Stellar dialogue (and casting) makes you feel as though you are right next to these grieving characters; you feel for them on a personal level. A compelling drama that was overshadowed by the flash of other films from its year.
February 8, 2014
The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 1997)
[originally posted 23Jul2001]

Atom Egoyan, helming the upcoming film of Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, takes a similarly jaundiced look at life in his adaptation of Russell Banks' acclaimed novel The Sweet Hereafter, based on the true story of a 1989 bus accident which killed the majority of children in a small town. A lawyer, Mitchell Stephens (Ian Holm), fighting his own child-related woes, goes to the townspeople in the aftermath of the accident to whip up a case against someone-the bus company, the department of works, anyone. He is excellent, as most lawyers are, at playing on the anger and outrage of the townspeople, and eventually all of them retain him except one. He is joined in his stand against the lawsuit by a rather odd ally, the only survivor of the crash itself, Nicole (Sarah Polley), who just wants the world to leave her, and her town, alone.

There are a lot of good things about this movie. Holm, Polley, and Egoyan vet Tom McCamus (looking his Brad Dourif-est as Polley's father) are all excellent actors, and a number of scenes in the film unfold with a kind of quiet joy that makes absolutely no sense in the general scheme of the tragedy, but at the same time make all the sense in the world. For all that, though, the movie never really coheres in the way it should; the lawyer's daughter is too obvious just a mechanism for his rage, the story's timelines get a bit muddled now and again, etc., but the flaws are minor compared to the strengths. I'd disagree with the vox pop at IMDB, who have placed The Sweet Hereafter in the top 250, but it's certainly not a bad little film. Almost makes me want to see what Egoyan can cook up with Atwood. ***
December 21, 2013
I've never been so wrung out by a movie that has very little "action" in the traditional sense. It is a story carried by powerful emotions, some running below the surface for much of the film. Great performances and an all too believable plot that grabs and doesn't easily let go.
½ December 19, 2013
A good attempt made by Atom Egoyan in exhibiting the value of justice to the traumatized. Shall we recall the saddening memory to bring justice to the deceased, or leave the survivors alone to respect the peace they are entitled to? Is justice that matter for survivors that it must be achieved? Are we just like Ian Holm, trying to manifest a value out of personal sentiments, rather than make the world a better place?
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