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The Sweet Hereafter
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The Sweet Hereafter

1997
Drama
1h 52m
On a winter's day, in the small rural community of Sam Dent, British Columbia, a school bus inexplicably crashes into a frozen lake, taking the lives of fourteen children and injuring many others. Shortly thereafter, Mitchell Stephens (Holm), a big city lawyer, comes to the community with promises to compensate its citizens for their loss. (Fine Line Films)
Your probable score
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The Sweet Hereafter

1997
Drama
1h 52m
Your probable score
Avg Percentile 68.07% from 1312 total ratings

Ratings & Reviews

(1311)
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Rated 14 Aug 2007
95
94th
Damn, this is good. It's not often you see such a remarkably graceful, subtle, multi-faceted and completely un-melodramatic movie about a terrible tragedy. Oh, and the acting -- especially by my hero Ian Holm -- is just perfect. The direction is great too. Some of the outdoor scenes reminded me of the most beautiful parts of Fargo. There's very, very little about this movie that isn't just the way it ought to be.
Rated 28 Dec 2008
69
31st
Kind of a formulatic, predictable and manipulative film, like Iñárritu ones. It's not bad, but i don't buy this sort of thing, that easily.
Rated 29 Dec 2009
5
91st
Bleak and depressing but never maudlin or sentimental. It's about as honest a depiction of tragedy and grief as you're likely to find. The nonlinear structure allows the material to progress on an emotional level and arrive at the feelings and depths of its characters gradually. The acting (especially Holm) is excellent, the cinematography is beautiful, the soundtrack is lovely, and the direction is pitch-perfect - you'd have to look long and hard to find anything wrong with this one.
Rated 28 Jun 2009
70
57th
Lynchian. Throughout the majority it felt like a sophomoric TV-movie, with patronising script, cloying melodrama, poor acting, and irksome editing (not to mention Ian Holm, who can't seem to decide on his accent). But there is a point at which The Sweet Hereafter caught me off-guard and became a surrealist comic-noir set in purgatory. Indeed, for all its ills, it left me quivering in quasi-existential terror; where I realise the poor beginning may have existed solely to cleanse me of prejudice.
Rated 16 Apr 2012
95
92nd
Every little detail worked for me. I've found Egoyan so cold and emotionally distant in Felicia's Journey and Speaking Parts, and while there certainly is an element of that here it is in the wake of such a massive tragedy that has sucked the collective joie du vivre from an entire community. It's exhausting, haunting, beautiful and ugly (on the underneath). Great use of the song "Courage."
Rated 05 Aug 2011
9
93rd
So dense and so much going on at all times it's hard to swallow all the information being thrown at you. It's subtlety done right. But it's done in such a precise and engrossing way that you can't look away. The flashforward/flashback is aptly used so that you always wonder what's coming next. The bus crash scene was one of the best filmed things I've seen in quite awhile. Loved the character of Billy but I was honestly hoping for more of a conclusion then what they gave me.
Rated 28 Oct 2010
80
86th
Mostly really well-handled portrayal of a grieving community, though on the verge of being too heavy-handed with its allegory now and then. Egoyan moves the film along very patiently. At times wonderfully poetic.
Rated 16 Oct 2008
76
73rd
Great acting especially from Ian Holm, great cinematography (the many slowly panning shots work well!), great music,... The story itself doesn't satisfy me as much, but the tension really builds up well through the many flashbacks and -forwards.
Rated 01 Nov 2013
85
94th
How are people calling this melodramatic?
Rated 16 Nov 2009
4
74th
Like a puzzle, this film slowly reveals its great emotional complexity through non-linear structure. Fortunately, it avoids melodramatic sentiment throughout. Ian Holm's character is really interesting; a self-appointed public avenger whose cynicism eats away at himself and a small community.
Rated 20 Dec 2013
80
90th
This was a pretty excellent film. The way in which it captured sadness and grief was quite beautiful and impressive. The performances were all good, with Ian Holm being particularly good. The non-linear storytelling was unobtrusive, which I appreciated. It was well-shot, engaging and had a palpable atmosphere, and I highly recommend it.
Rated 07 Jul 2009
0
3rd
Just couldn't get interested in the film at all!
Rated 12 Nov 2015
3
5th
The non-linear narrative works as it moves between post- and pre-incident, leading you with baited breath to the breathtakingly traumatic moment, but as the convoluted scenes pile up (why is she making out with her dad?) it becomes just another irritation. The characters are never explained (all we get are long empty stares and confusing dialogue) so the emotions never sink in, and outside of that is just a bland plot (and pointless sub-story) about a lawyer trying to rally plaintiffs.
Rated 28 Jan 2008
90
95th
Egoyan avoids melodrama and it pays off. The film plays as a very subtle children's story that leaves you with a disturbing feeling of sadness and nostalgy, but at the same time a sense of faith.
Rated 22 Jul 2011
71
79th
Good Movie
Rated 08 Apr 2012
51
50th
What non-manipulative, non-melodramatic film were you guys watching?
Rated 11 Feb 2012
87
78th
At times devastating drama, with a superb performance by Holm at the forefront, backed by equally fine work by the supporting cast (Polley is especially good). Egoyan's dreamy handling of the intense material ensures a light touch while never straying from the darker themes, and evokes a touching exploration of the effect a tragedy can have on a close knit community. Falters occasionally due to a slightly cold aloofness at its core, but remains mostly a terrific achievement.
Rated 10 Aug 2012
85
59th
Has this really harrowing, depressing winter atmosphere with some really brutal scenes within. Ian Holm and Sarah Polley are both really good, but I think what impressed me most was the delicate hand of Atom Egoyan, whose direction is quite impressive.
Rated 06 Mar 2014
78
75th
the knife and windpipe story was awesome!
Rated 03 Nov 2012
45
85th
One of the hardest to watch films I've ever seen.
Rated 25 Jun 2012
80
81st
The direction here is a fantastic combination of precision and delicacy that is very clear and accessible for the viewer.
Rated 29 May 2012
86
96th
I haven't seen much of Egoyan's work, but based on this maybe I should. Stunning and sometimes almost ethereal in it's pain it really is quite extraordinary.
Rated 13 Nov 2012
88
92nd
Heartrending.
Rated 17 May 2012
60
63rd
Some interesting characterisation and a fairly complex and layered approach, but still a bit heavy-handed. Performances are variable, but some are very good.
Rated 27 Dec 2012
61
17th
Sweet and good-natured while retaining some edge, but it's also very boring, standard, and unsatisfying, with a number of pointless or irksome scenes and does not have many engaging characters.
Rated 22 Dec 2013
61
37th
Overrated in so many ways in my opinion. Soundtracks were great though..
Rated 26 Jan 2014
47
26th
boooring
Rated 05 Mar 2011
50
40th
Uneven. Halfway through the focus shifts, which is hurtful to the film. The characters end up seeming bland and you feel sort of "uninvolved" - considering that the films overall theme is the loss of children, it's a pretty important that you feel involved.
Rated 08 Apr 2016
5
81st
I'm obliged to love this since I'm from B.C.
Rated 12 Apr 2016
93
95th
Yessss this is the Egoyan I was craving after seeing Calendar. His new stuff that I've seen(the Captive/Remember) are decent but this was something else. Great performance by Holm. Plus there's a scene set to The Hip and you can constantly hear HNIC in the background.
Rated 03 Sep 2017
97
86th
An examination of raw emotions in the aftermath of a school bus crash. Egoyan was immediately admitted to my permanent list of memorable directors. I have paid attention to his work ever since. A film that 20 years after distribution still sends a cold streak throughout my nervous system.
Rated 03 Apr 2020
69
33rd
Small town, big drama.
Rated 11 Jun 2020
8
92nd
Understated, almost gentle In tone despite the themes of loss, grief and guilt after a tragedy. I found this engaging, deeply profound and sad.
Rated 10 Jul 2020
90
71st
A-
Rated 01 Nov 2020
70
28th
I think the review by joel-w-m sums it up somewhat. It just has a TV-movie feel to it strangely which doesn't work well. Everything is off in a TV movie like pacing and acting and dialogue even though there's a good intriguing story here.
Rated 15 Dec 2021
78
46th
Very bleak but extremely effective, if a little slight. Holm’s character and performance are the clear highlight - why is he really doing this? Does he even know himself?
Rated 24 Jan 2023
83
80th
This is fantastic, with amazing use of sound and music in an unusual way that just works. There is a lot going on here about loss and its aftermath, modern society's impact on community, and a whole lot more. Greenwood is especially great as a man just totally broken by the loss of his kids.
Rated 30 Jan 2024
75
79th
The poetic tone both visually and narratively are not self-indulgent, as they very often are, and that's something that works very well. This is a -great- looking movie. I love the Piper poem so that helps, but it's wonderful how it is merged with the story. I'm usually not a fan of the composer Danna but he did some very good work here. The 2nd half lost me a little: suddenly there's an incest story that seems unrelated to the core of the story and it becomes a bit of a misery pile-up.
Rated 19 Feb 2024
70
63rd
Seems like it will be one of the most unwatchably bland movies ever (Ian Holm is... a lawyer). Gradually, it really grows into something that I remember from Exotica, this interesting range of vision (maybe comparable to Lonergan). Probably the setting put me off, definitely wish there was more in the way of neon brothel extravagances.
Rated 18 Aug 2009
94
94th
One of the best directed films I've ever seen. However, if you don't like sad stories, it's not for you. I personally can't get enough of them, and this is the cream of the crop for documenting the unraveling of good human beings, who may not be so good after all.
Rated 23 Feb 2007
55
44th
Intelligent and well-made but also predictable, a bit flowery and a touch too blunt.
Rated 14 Apr 2007
80
68th
Another of Atom Egoyan's unique little movies about the dark side of the human condition
Rated 25 Jun 2007
93
82nd
One of the most subtley powerful films ever created. Dense and graceful without ever becoming manipulative.
Rated 14 Aug 2007
84
81st
Purty.
Rated 14 Aug 2007
83
71st
Very well done
Rated 14 Aug 2007
75
74th
Excellent locale work, a brilliant adaptation by Egoyan of the book, great supporting characters and a disturbingly haunting accident scene all add up to one of 1997's best hidden gem films.
Rated 17 Sep 2007
85
94th
powerful, sad, and often hypnotic
Rated 02 Mar 2008
67
47th
# 653
Rated 25 Apr 2008
85
97th
a fairy tale of empowerment, a vision of a better life where everything is strange and new. a fathers dream, a daughters nightmare. the lie that beats reason, the lie that makes it right
Rated 19 Dec 2008
64
28th
719
Rated 27 Feb 2009
80
63rd
The Sweet Hereafter reminds me of The Ice Storm: a very solid family drama that has an "it's going to break into something extraordinary at any moment now" feel all over it. To me it never happened though. And although it's a film that I very much like and would watch again, it left me a bit more conflicted than amazed.
Rated 13 Apr 2009
100
97th
Surely one of the best examples of vision on film in last twenty years. A perfect film, totally heartbreaking.
Rated 27 Jul 2009
3
74th
Well constructed story that thankfully doesn't bother to tie up every loose end. Also has a nice, slow pace to it. Could perhaps have been even more subtle, I'm not sure how I feel about the voice-over, citing a tale that becomes something of a parabel for the drama that plays out between the characters.
Rated 17 Dec 2011
88
94th
This is an outstanding drama with two great performances by Ian Holm and Sarah Polley. The director lets the story unfold in a nonlinear fashion that adds to the film. I highly recommend this film
Rated 01 Sep 2009
93
83rd
Great movie about the arbitrary nature of tragedy.
Rated 23 Oct 2009
90
83rd
Such a complex story delivered with grace.
Rated 18 Dec 2009
72
68th
Great acting especially from Ian Holm, great cinematography (the many slowly panning shots work well!), great music,... The story itself doesn't satisfy me as much, but the tension really builds up well through the many flashbacks and -forwards.
Rated 28 Dec 2009
95
96th
Emotionally devastating portrait of the aftermath of a disaster on a small town, as seen through the eyes of a desperate ambulance-chasing attorney. Brilliant work by Sarah Polley in a delicate role. The accident itself is handled simply and breathtakingly.
Rated 15 Jan 2010
60
20th
797
Rated 20 Jan 2010
45
15th
Nothing wrong with the film in theory as it's certainly very well crafted, I just tend to hate movies that make me feel like shit.
Rated 27 Jan 2010
87
75th
A fine little film, with a wonderful performance from Ian Holm.
Rated 28 Nov 2010
72
49th
Despite some great performances from Holm, Polley and Greenwood, I found this film annoying and unsubtle: the acting forced and the music dreadful. It seems Egoyan is not for me.
Rated 13 Jan 2011
90
95th
I suspect this deserves an even higher score, seemed pretty close to perfect. Ian Holm and Sarah Polley were phenomenal.
Rated 22 Dec 2006
47
20th
I know I'm in the minority, but I HATE this movie. Non-stop crying by all the characters does not a good drama make.
Rated 01 Nov 2011
84
90th
Engaging drama with a few amazing scenes and shots. The non-linear structure works great, constantly adding more pieces of information to fill out the big picture. It doesn't really build to an amazing payoff though. Still, the themes are woven into the film nicely, the time flies by and it never becomes melodramatic.
Rated 02 Dec 2011
58
16th
#842

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