Atom Egoyan, The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Movies
September 12th, 2003 • 11:44 pm

Intriguing movie by Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan about a horrific school bus accident and the aftermath in a small Canadian town.

The actors are well directed, and the overall effect is harrowing. The back-and-forth movement (before and after the accident) is well executed. Egoyan builds likeable or intriguing characters with little touches, and it’s hard not to become emotionally involved by the time the accident actually happens in the movie.

Yet the movie leaves a strange aftertaste of incompleteness. There are many aspects that are barely touched upon, yet seem to play an important part in the story. What about the apparently incestuous relationship between Nicole and her father before the accident? All we have is a scene in a barn. Yet it is quite probable that this relationship is the main motive behind Nicole’s ultimate lie in her testimony after the accident, which destroys all the efforts of the lawyer. (It could also be that she simply doesn’t want her community to fall apart, which is likely to happen if the lawyer gets his way.) Is this what the movie is really about? Incest and vengeance? If it is, then why is it only barely suggested? What’s the intention of the director in merely suggesting it?

We also don’t know what really motivates Mitchell, the lawyer. He appears to be on a mission — but we don’t really know where that comes from. The parts about his own private life and his junkie daughter don’t really EXPLAIN anything.

I guess it’s hard to find a balance between suggestion and explicit explanation. As it is, I find that the movie doesn’t quite find the perfect balance. But it remains a interesting work of art, and is worth watching for many aspects.

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