The Sweet Hereafter

November 21st, 1997


more trailers The Sweet Hereafter

The Sweet HereafterThe Sweet HereafterThe Sweet HereafterStill of Sarah Polley in The Sweet HereafterStill of Sarah Polley in The Sweet HereafterThe Sweet Hereafter

This film documents the effects of a tragic bus accident on the population of a small town.

Release Year: 1997

Rating: 7.8/10 (18,435 voted)

Critic's Score: 90/100

Director: Atom Egoyan

Stars: Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, Caerthan Banks

A small community is torn apart by a tragic accident which kills most of the town's children. A lawyer visits the victims' parents in order to profit from the tragedy by stirring up the their anger and launching a class action suit against anyone they can blame. The community is paralyzed by its anger and cannot let go. All but one young girl, left in a wheelchair after the accident, who finds the courage to lead the way toward healing.

Writers: Russell Banks, Atom Egoyan

Ian Holm - Mitchell Stevens
Caerthan Banks - Zoe Stevens
Sarah Polley - Nicole Burnell
Tom McCamus - Sam Burnell
Gabrielle Rose - Dolores Driscoll
Alberta Watson - Risa
Maury Chaykin - Wendell
Stephanie Morgenstern - Allison
Kirsten Kieferle - Stewardess
Arsinée Khanjian - Wanda
Earl Pastko - Hartley
Simon Baker - Bear
David Hemblen - Abbott
Bruce Greenwood - Billy
Sarah Rosen Fruitman - Jessica

Taglines: There is no such thing as the simple truth.


Official Website: Fine Line |

Release Date: 21 November 1997

Filming Locations: Merritt, British Columbia, Canada

Box Office Details

Budget: $CAD5,000,000(estimated)

Opening Weekend: $73,547 (USA) (23 November 1997) (5 Screens)

Gross: $3,252,652 (USA) (12 April 1998)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Caerthan Banks is the daughter of Russell Banks, who wrote the novel (also titled "The Sweet Hereafter") that the film is based on.

Audio/visual unsynchronized: When Stephens visits the Ottos, and Mr. Otto offers him some tea, we hear a teakettle whistling but the one we see on the cooker is not the whistling type.

Sam: Nicole, tomorrow Mr. Stephens wants you to make your deposition at the community center. Thought I'd take you over.
Nicole: Great.
Sam: You seem, uh, I don't know. Distant, I guess. Hard to talk to.
Nicole: We didn't used to have to talk a lot, did we Daddy?
Sam: What do you mean?
Nicole: I mean, I'm a wheelchair girl now. And it's hard to pretend that I'm a beautiful rock star. Remember, Daddy? That beautiful stage that you were gonna build for me. You were gonna light it with nothing but candles.

User Review

Tragic and beautiful masterpiece

Rating: 10/10

The Sweet Hereafter is as tragic, sad and matter-of-fact as movies get, but it's still so very beautiful that it becomes a film that's virtually impossible to forget.

The story makes no secret of the fact what terrible tragedy will happen, right from the outset. A lesser filmmaker than Atom Egoyan would've jumped at the chance to shock the audience with the freak accident that robs the town of Sam Dent of nearly all their children, by telling the story in a linear fashion. Not Egoyan. The story is fragmented, thus enhancing the true point: This is not about the overwhelming power of loss, it is about the overwhelming power of survivor's guilt (nicely represented in Browning's poem The Pied Piper Of Hamelin, which is referred to in the movie). It's all about people who grieve not only for the ones they've lost, but also for themselves, how empty their lives have become because of their tragedies. In focussing on that point, the film refrains from manipulative sentiment (which so many others don't), and presents true and unintrusive emotion, that, in the end, despite all the terror, shines a light of hope, for the sweet hereafter is not only the peaceful afterlife, it's also the peaceful future, the continuation of life...

The performances speak for themselves. Ian Holm and Sarah Polley shine in particular, through nicely subdued and subtle acting. Polley also excels as a fantastic singer-songwriter. The songs in the movie were written and performed all by herself.

Egoyan's direction is simply masterful in its beauty, elegance and evocation.

One of the best films of the 1990s.

10 out of 10.