Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 1997)

The next film in my new Egoyan obsession was The Sweet Hereafter, which is probably Egoyan's most well known and acclaimed film. It's the story of a small town, devastated by a school bus crash that killed most of the town's children, and the big city lawyer with his own problems who comes in to get the victims lined up for a class-action suit. The plot sounds typical, but the characters are anything but. The townspeople are not just grieving small-town yokels, and neither is Mr. Stephens, the lawyer, a slick big-city guy looking to take these people for all the money they can. Everyone has their own ways of grieving, from sex, to anger, to the bus driver's extreme contrition yet unfailing optimism. Stephens has a daughter, Zoe, whom he loves so much, yet who despises him and is in an unending downward spiral. Billy, played by Bruce Greenwood, tries to convince his fellow townspeople to dismiss the lawsuit against the bus manufacturer. Nicole, Sarah Polley in a solid performance, is a survivor of the crash who is now paralyzed, and holds the whole lawsuit's fate in her hands. There is also a subtle incest subplot, which plays a huge part in the movie's ending. Egoyan portrays these people as just like any others, with huge secrets and hidden sides.

The performances are all very real, and the scene where Billy sees the bus with his children on it spin down the icy hill to the children's deaths is one of the most tragic I have seen on film. Another amazingly powerful scene is when Stephens recounts the story of when his daughter almost died as a baby, when he held her life in his hands, literally. These two centerpiece scenes evoke the tragic nature of everyday life. Most of the film is so understated, however, that the tragedy is almost muted. The realism goes further than my emotions can follow, I suppose. So while I definitely liked this film a lot, it didn't reach the heights I thought Exotica did.


RIYL: The Ice Storm

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