A film directed by Atom Egoyan, released in 1997.

A film that took Cannes by storm and even took home the Grand Prize of the Jury. The story unfolds with Ian Holm speaking with his daughter. It is obvious something is amiss. We do not know if she has merely runaway, is now a prostitute, or some combination.

Ian Holm is an ambulance-chasing attorney without the annoying ads(at least we do not see any here). He must convince a town, still dealing with their grief, to sue for massive damages. Every one is shown as dealing with a deep loss of some sort; most parents lost their children in a school bus accident and the only student that survived was Sarah Polley who is now confined to a wheelchair. Ian Holm is facing the prospect of losing his daughter to the streets or maybe he has already lost her.

As he goes door to door we see the hidden lives of the townspeople. We see the incest and adultery in addition to the great love many of these people had for their children. As Ian Holm is going door to door, we hear Sarah Polley reading to two children telling a tale that parallels what will happen to their town.

The scenery, which may as well have been on a postcard, contrasts with the grief and despair of the community and the inner anguish of Ian Holm. It looks like something out of a Christmas card.

This was the second time I had seen Sarah Polley in film. The first time having been Go. Sarah does not disappoint and even contributes to the soundtrack.

Time Out Film Guide


The film The Sweet Hereafter is based on the novel of the same name written by Russell Banks. If you enjoyed the film, I encourage you to seek out the book, because it's wonderful. If you want to be a writer, or if you simply enjoy a good story, the novel has a great deal to offer you.

The book's central event is a school bus crash that kills many children in the small town of Sam Dent in upstate New York; the rest of the book explores the effect the tragedy has on the town and the novel's central characters.

The Sweet Hereafter provides the best example I've ever encountered of an author alternating between several first person narrators. It's told from four viewpoints: Dolores Driscoll, the bus driver; Billy Ansel, a grieving, alcoholic father of one of the dead children; Mitchell Stephens, a New York City lawyer who is trying to cope with grief over his own drug-addicted daughter; and Nichole Burnell, a teenager who was crippled in the accident.

Banks establishes such distinct cadences for each character that when all four of them are talking to one another, he goes sometimes for pages without a single "he said," "she said."

The book is 257 pages long and was first published in 1991, though parts of it appeared before that date in North American Review and Ontario Review.

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