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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Sweet Hereafter (1997)



Reviews and Comments

The Sweet Hereafter is a heavy drama about how a town copes with a fatal accident involving a school bus. Ian Holm plays a lawyer who comes to the town and wants the parents of the dead children to sue. As the film shifts focus between each of the characters, we learn about the various ways people cope with great loss and how some of these ways are more fruitful than others. Despite the insight with which the script chronicles very personal emotions in different people and despite the many matters submitted to the audience as food for thought, I came away from the film strangely, surprisingly unmoved. The deaths of children are tragic; we know this. Parents and other members of the town are going to have conflicting ideas about how to deal with it. We know this also. I did not find that the film presents its material in an especially compelling manner -- with the exception of one or two startingly vivid scenes. Perhaps it would have helped if the film had focused on fewer characters and portrayed them as more than symbols of manners of grief. The main character of the lawyer is more rounded out than that, but he's too much of an enigma to identify with.

The movie's sincerity impresses me, as does the completeness of the scope of its coverage of the tragedy and its aftermath. For those reasons, I recommend the film, but I do so with reservations. This is not the kind of film you see to enjoy, but nor is it quite thought-provoking enough to change the world.