The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Recommended, TSPDT #875

Sometimes a film really needs to have that good ending otherwise the rest of the film almost fails completely. Unfortunately, a lousy ending made worse by some bad voice over narration does screw up this film. However, please take my word for it that everything else leading up to the last 20 minutes is so good that even the ending shouldn’t keep you from this film. Who knows, maybe the ending won’t bother you as much as it did me.

The film is about an accident that takes the bus pictured above off a snowy road in Canada and into some ice that swallows up all the children, save the driver and one girl aboard. Some years before, a man is at a cabin with his wife and young daughter who gets so sick that her throat begins to swell up. On the way to the hospital that man holds a knife in one hand in case he needs to cut open her throat while he rocks her and sings to keep her in order to keep calm with the other. Two years after the bus accident, that same man is flying to see his daughter in one of what has been a string of rehab centers as he talks to an old friend of hers on the plane. In between is when that man who is a lawyer tries to convince the town that they need to extract their pound of flesh for the accident. That they need to blame someone and need to be compensated.

The film is nonlinear, jumping between those three time periods as well as to before the accident and after the accident. In the process we get to know the people in the town as well as lawyer who’s own problems with his daughter drive his actions concerning the accident. The visuals of the Canadian countryside are beautiful, cold, and isolating. They help to create a sense of community that makes the lose of all the children that much more devastating and the lawsuits that much more shocking.

This film will emotionally devastate you so be forewarned. Even with my ending problems I still recommend it.