The Sweet Hereafter (film)

The Sweet Hereafter (film)

Infobox Film
name = The Sweet Hereafter

caption = "The Sweet Hereafter" DVD cover
director = Atom Egoyan
producer = Atom Egoyan
Camelia Frieberg
writer = Russell Banks (novel)
Atom Egoyan
starring = Ian Holm
Sarah Polley
Bruce Greenwood
music = Mychael Danna
cinematography = Paul Sarossy
editing = Susan Shipton
distributor =
released = May 14 1997 (premiere at Cannes)
26 September, 1997 (UK)
10 October, 1997 (Canada)
21 November, 1997 (USA)
runtime = 112 min.
language = English
budget = $5,000,000 (est.)
imdb_id = 0120255

"The Sweet Hereafter" is a 1997 Canadian film written and directed by Atom Egoyan. It is adaptation of the novel of the same name by Russell Banks.

Plot summary

"The Sweet Hereafter" depicts life in a small town in Canada in the wake of a terrible school bus accident in which numerous local children are killed. Hardly able to cope with the loss, their grieving parents are approached by a slick city lawyer (Ian Holm) who wants them to sue for damages. At first the parents are reluctant to do so, but eventually they are persuaded by the lawyer that filing a class action lawsuit would ease their minds and also be the right thing to do.

As most of the children are dead, the case now depends on the few surviving witnesses to say the right things in court. In particular, it is 15 year-old Nicole Burnell (Sarah Polley), who was sitting at the front of the bus and is now paralyzed from the waist down, whose deposition is all-important. However, she unexpectedly accuses driver Dolores Driscoll (Gabrielle Rose) of speeding and thus causing the accident. When she does so, all hopes of ever receiving money are thwarted. All the people involved know that Nicole is lying but cannot do anything about it. Only her father (Tom McCamus) knows why, but he is unable to publicly reveal his daughter's motives; she is lashing out at him for molesting her.

Factual basis

"See article on the novel".


Banks approved of Egoyan's adaptation, playing a cameo role as the town doctor, and discussing the film with Egoyan in the DVD's commentary track.

In adapting the novel, Egoyan changed the setting from Upstate New York to Canada. Another major change is Egoyan's addition of references to the story of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" by Robert Browning, which Nicole is seen reading to children who later die in the accident. In that story, the Pied Piper leads all the children away, never to return, after their parents refuse to honor their debt to him.

In the "Pied Piper", there is a crippled child who is unable to follow the Piper's song, and so he is left behind in a now-childless town, forever wishing he could have gone with the other children. The paralyzed survivor, Nicole, is clearly identified with this child in the movie, shifting away from her motivation in the book in which she is primarily acting out of anger against her father.


The movie was filmed in four locations: Merritt, British Columbia, Spences Bridge, British Columbia, Stouffville, Ontario, and Toronto, Ontario [citeweb|url=|title=Filming Locations for The Sweet Hereafter|publisher=The Internet Movie Database (IMDB)|accessdate=2007-01-15]


The "Pied Piper" theme is further enhanced through Mychael Danna's score, which is heavily influenced by Medieval and Renaissance music with frequent appearances of a flute.

The song "Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)" by The Tragically Hip serves as the theme song used in the soundtrack. A version of the song as sung by Sarah Polley also appears in the film.


The film was welcomed with overwhelming critical acclaim upon its release. Popular online film critic James Berardinelli placed it 2nd on his list of the Top 10 Best Films of the 1990s. It currently holds a rating of 90 on the movie review site Metacritic which signifies universal acclaim.


"The Sweet Hereafter" won three awards at the Cannes Film Festival: the FIPRESCI Prize, the Grand Prize of the Jury, and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. It won Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Actor (Holm), and three other prizes at the Genie Awards for Canadian Films. It was also nominated for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 70th Academy Awards.


* Ian Holm - Mitchell Stephens (lawyer)
* Sarah Polley - Nicole Burnell (victim)
* Tom McCamus - Sam Burnell (father)
* Alberta Watson - Risa Walker (parent)
* Bruce Greenwood - Billy Ansel (parent)
* Gabrielle Rose - Dolores Driscoll (bus driver)
* Arsinée Khanjian - Wanda Otto (parent)
* Mychael Danna - Live band harmonium player (uncredited)


External links

*imdb title|id=0120255|title=The Sweet Hereafter
* [ Film reviews]
* [ Script of movie]

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