The Sweet Hereafter

Though he's never attracted as much attention from the hipster contingent—or even as much critical support—as contemporaries such as Hal Hartley, Canada's Atom Egoyan has spent the last decade proving himself to be one of the most fascinating filmmakers working today, consistently turning out such complex and provocative works as Speaking Parts, The Adjuster, and Exotica. Egoyan's latest, an adaptation of the Russell Banks novel The Sweet Hereafter, is no exception. In a chronologically jumpy manner, Hereafter concerns the events leading up to and following a school-bus accident that takes the lives of many of a small town's children. Ian Holm—a great actor allowed to impress here more than in his many small parts in movies like The Fifth Element—plays a lawyer attempting to sue on behalf of the victim's families while coping with the less tangible loss of his own daughter to drug addiction. Though adapted from someone else's work, it's amazing the degree to which The Sweet Hereafter works as a summary of Egoyan's concerns. The examination of loss and recovery from Exotica is taken on again, while the only superficially banal role played by official figures, best seen in The Adjuster, makes an appearance as well. It's all presented in a detached style that's ultimately much more moving and truthful than any heartstring-slashing weeper. This may be Egoyan's best work yet, and it's surely one of the best films of the year.

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