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The Sweet Hereafter, 1997 – ★★★★★

Criterion Challenge 2022
Progress: 20/52
Prompt: Watch any Criterion film on your watchlist

As is evident from the prompt, this is one of the movies I picked for the challenge because it’s been on my list to watch forever. I just needed that extra push. As with Hiroshima Mon Amour, my explorations into Kieślowski’s Three Color trilogy, and Cléo from 5 to 7, I have been amply rewarded for figuring out a way to push myself.

My favorite music is sad. It is not entirely the case that my favorite movies are about grief, but look at that list of movies I just reeled off in the last paragraph. I like exuberance and action, a lot. I am also drawn towards melancholy. Egoyan explores the nature of grief in this movie without sugarcoating the terrible things that grief can lead to.

The bus accident didn’t destroy that town. The town was in terrible shape, gliding over betrayal and corruption of the soul: that’s in all the stories Egoyan tells here. Ian Holm’s Mitchell Stevens isn’t really the cause of the pain he leaves in his wake, he’s just the magnifying glass.

There’s something quietly savage about Billy’s offer of help, “the way we used to do it… because this was a community.” The man who’s having an affair with someone else’s wife is citing community? Again, the town was never what they all wanted it to be.

Those two scenes which Holm and Sarah Polley share are gifts. Two amazing actors, spending most of that screen time watching each other.

I loved the lack of easy answers. I don’t even think the Pied Piper symbolism is clear. It’s just a myth, and the best myths flavor everything.

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