Holder of a rare 100% on RottenTomatoes, and voted the best Canadian film ever made by a 2002 Canadian film magazine, The Sweet Hereafter is a little nothing of a film I’d never heard of, even with multiple trips through the book. The name just never popped out at me, and indeed I might’ve gone 90% of the way through the book without seeing it if I hadn’t spontaneously located a copy and double-checked to see that, yes, it was in fact an entry. Thankfully, when I finally got around to watching it, I was fairly well rewarded with a surprising treat of a film, in several ways, though the subject matter might be a bit depressing for some.
It took a while to decipher what the film was about; the film seemed to jump back and forth through time, and it was very unapparent whenever it did, making the film rather confusing to watch at first, so allow me to ease some of the initial confusion. The film deals with a lawyer, played by Ian Holm (one of my favorites), who is sent to a Canadian town recently devastated by an accident involving the death of a school bus full of kids, in order to assess the situation and see if there’s a case any of the grieving families can file against any party he can find that’s responsible. Once I got the story, it became very interesting, and the film was highly capable of holding my interest both with the storyline and the technicals. The camerawork was very fluid and careful, in the best way; mobile, but with an identifiable purpose to it. It was quite the joy to watch, visually, and the film helped itself along with some gorgeous white vistas of the Canadian countryside. As for the story, it’s very nonlinear, but it delves into corners of the heart you may not remember you have; the film deals with loss and suffering and tragedy, and how people deal when faced with it, so get yourself ready for some sentimentality on both ends.
As I mentioned in the opener, this one got quite the critical response upon its release, so much so that even the author of the original book the film is adapted from acknowledged that this was one of the rare times that the film was better than the book. I haven’t read the book (nor heard of it until now), so I can’t attest to that statement, but the film itself is quite severe and weighty with its material, and should not be taken lightly, but those that do take it in stride will find themselves well rewarded. If you’re of the mind to appreciate a film of this type and magnitude, I highly recommend you give it a shot. You’ve only got a couple of hours of sadness and melancholy to give up, and as long as you’re willing to, you’ll walk away satisfied.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10