The Sweet Hereafter
- Duffin, Jacalyn
- Date of entry: Oct-21-2003
Lawyer Mitchell Stephens (Ian Holm) comes to town preying on the grief of the citizens who have lost their children or seen them harmed when a school bus slid off the road and sank through a frozen lake. He encounters a network of secrets and distorted perceptions of blame, guilt, lies, and victimhood revealed by flashbacks. Grieving the loss of his challenged son, the sinister but simple motel keeper, Wendell (Maury Chaykin), warns Stephens off the case, blaming parents, children, drivers, and the road. He does not know that his wife has been sleeping in one of the vacant rooms with a good-looking widower whose son and daughter both drowned.
The Otto family, especially the mother (Arsinée Khanjian) are destroyed by the loss of their beloved adopted son, a smiling native child, called Bear. They are confused. On the one hand, they want nothing because their loss was accidental; on the other, they want vengeance because someone must be blamed for their overwhelming pain. The bus driver, Dolores, who has lost so many of "her kids" seems not to have grasped the full extent of the tragedy or the possibility that all could be blamed on her.
And yet it could. The crucial evidence is the speed at which she took the last downhill curve. The key witness is a teenager, Nicole (Sarah Polley), who sat just behind the driver and survived the accident as a paraplegic. Her father is eager for her to testify, hoping for a large settlement. It slowly emerges that his seemingly close relationship with Nicole before the accident was incestuous. Now she is seething with anger toward him--because of his past abuse? or because of his present abandonment? or both? She claims that Dolores was driving too fast. The case collapses. Stephens later sees Dolores driving a group of seniors.
Alliance Video; New Line Home Video