Film Scouts Reviews

"The Sweet Hereafter"

by David Sterritt

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Best of all--not just yesterday but in the festival so far--is Atom Egoyan's brilliant "The Sweet Hereafter," about a middle-aged lawyer visiting a rural community where he hopes to organize the anger and sorrow of plain-minded citizens whose lives have been forever altered by a tragic accident in which a school bus skidded off a road and sank into a lake. In typical Egoyan fashion, the movie tells its story in a time-twisting manner, switching between the days of the attorney's visit, the lives of the townspeople and the lawyer before any of this happened, and a couple of years later when it's all a memory. The results are as intricate and intelligent as earlier Egoyan pictures like "Speaking Parts" and "The Adjuster" and "Exotica," and for the first time there's a fully realized soul to the movie, as well, which I found enormously moving on both emotional and intellectual levels. Everything from camera movements and montage to colors, music, and dialogue--including superb use of the venerable "Pied Piper of Hamelin" folk tale--is superbly realized. Not everyone I've talked with agrees with me, but I think it's more than worthy of the Palm d'Or and any other award you can think of.

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