The Sweet Hereafter (20th Century Fox) (1997)

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Released 8-Mar-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Interviews-Crew-Atom Egoyan (Director)
Theatrical Trailer
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Trailer-Erskineville Kings, Australian Rules,The Rage In Placid Lake
Trailer-Kurt And Courtney, Respiro, The Best Man's Wedding,
Trailer-Va Savoir, My Wife Is An Actress
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 107:33 (Case: 112)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (97:47) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Atom Egoyan
Alliance Communictns
Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Ian Holm
Caerthan Banks
Sarah Polley
Tom McCamus
Gabrielle Rose
Alberta Watson
Maury Chaykin
Stephanie Morgenstern
Kirsten Kieferle
Arsinée Khanjian
Earl Pastko
Simon Baker
David Hemblen
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Mychael Danna

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.00:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, references to drug use
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Sweet Hereafter is possibly one of the slowest moving and understated films of recent years, and yet it is powerfully moving and deeply insightful.

    Ostensibly it is about a lawyer called Mitchell (Ian Holm), who visits a small grief-stricken Canadian town where recently a bus accident has killed most of the young children in the town. He tries to persuade the residents to redirect their grief and anger into a class-action suit against the bus manufacturer.

    But the story goes much deeper than that. It is told in three parallel timelines - a flashback to the events leading to the tragic accident, the recent past showing the lawyer visiting the town and interviewing the residents, and a more recent present involving the lawyer in a plane chatting to his seat neighbour Allison (Stephanie Morgenstern), who just happens to be an old school friend of his daughter's.

    There are no good and bad guys in this film. Everyone is trying to do what he or she feels is right, and yet each person is flawed in character and thinking as well.

    The lawyer seems to be angry, disappointed and frustrated by the actions of his drug-addicted daughter Zoe (Caerthan Banks), and yet he is fearful of losing her forever and perhaps haunted by the feeling that he has already lost her many years ago. She continually calls him and torments him with requests for more money, and a promise to return home (which she never does). He remembers an incident when she was young and was bitten by a spider and he was prepared to cut her throat with a knife to save her life - he compares that to the current situation where he is still willing to do almost anything to save his daughter but he feels completely helpless and he fears she is beyond any hope.

    The main storyline is rather bittersweet. Mitchell uses the skills of his profession to deftly channel the residents' anger and grief into support for his rather tacky attempt to blame the bus manufacturer for what is clearly nobody's fault. Some residents, in particular Sam (Tom McCamus), don't agree with what he is doing.

    The climax of the film is when Nicole (Sarah Polley), a beautiful young girl who is a budding singer but now turned into a paraplegic as a result of the accident, decides to solve the growing tension amongst the residents in an unorthodox way ...

    We also see scenes of Nicole reading aloud a poem - Robert Browning's The Pied Piper of Hamelin - to Sam's children whom she babysits and there are curious parallels between the story of the poem and the tragic accident. There are also some interesting parallels between Nicole's relationship with her father and Mitchell's relationship with his daughter.

    At times deeply moving, the film is absorbing on both an emotional and intellectual level and well worth a watch.

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Transfer Quality


    Unfortunately, we get shortchanged with a rather problematic transfer compared to the R1.

    The transfer is in widescreen 2.00:1 but it is not 16x9 enhanced. The intended aspect ratio is 2.35:1, based on a 35mm film source.

    Due to the lack of 16x9 enhancement, the transfer is somewhat soft and lacking in detail. In addition, I noticed a few instances of aliasing and even moire patterns (especially around Mitchell's herringbone jacket around 31:43-31:54 and in other places in Chapter 7).

    Even though colour saturation is generally okay (and I suspect the filmmakers may have intended a low contrast subdued look to the film) I felt that the overall transfer had poor black levels and poor shadow detail. Colour accuracy also seemed poor.

    Compression artefacts include posterization and low level Gibbs effect ringing.

    There are no subtitle tracks.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change occurs at the end of Chapter 16 at 97:47. It occurs between scenes so should be relatively unobtrusive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only one audio track on the disc: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    Unfortunately we get shortchanged again in comparison to R1, as we are missing the discrete Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.

    The audio track seems to be derived from the original Dolby Stereo mix, even though the track is not flagged as surround-encoded. Engaging Dolby Pro Logic II decoding provided a reasonably enveloping soundtrack and the surround channels were reasonably well engaged for background music ambience and occasional Foley effects.

    The audio track seems pleasant enough to listen to. Dialogue was reasonably clear throughout and there were no issues with audio synchronization. I would have liked a higher bitrate to be used which would have resulted in a fuller sound, but as it is the audio track is acceptable.

    The original music score is by Mychael Danna, and features a number of original songs and covers sung by Sarah Polley. The music is mainly played using medieval instruments, which gives an interesting mood to the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The R1 edition of this film is a feature-laden Platinum Edition chock full of extras from New Line. Unfortunately, due to international distributorship arrangements, the R4 release is by an independent DVD authoring house with limited access to the special features contained on the R1 disc.

    The most significant extra is a fairly long featurette containing a documentary on director Atom Egoyan.


    The menu are full frame and static. The main menu includes background audio.

Interviews-Crew- Atom Egoyan (Director) (51:47)

    This is a documentary entitled "Formulas of Seduction: The Cinema of Atom Egoyan" recorded at the English National Opera House in 1999, around the time that Atom was the opera director for Doctor Ox's Experiment. It is presented in approximately 1.66:1 (without 16x9 enhancement) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    Atom talks about his childhood growing up in Egypt, his film director influences, recognition from Wim Wenders, casting, and various other topics. Most of the documentary focuses on Atom talking about his films, and various excerpts from his previous films (including The Sweet Hereafter) are shown. His comments on The Sweet Hereafter are mainly about the relationship to the novel by Russell Banks, and the importance of the music score.

    I found it quite hard to understand what Atom is saying, mainly because he mumbles a lot.

Theatrical Trailer (1:53)

    This is presented in Pan & Scan and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

Gallery-Photo- 18

    This is mainly a set of stills taken from the film, presented in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1.

Filmographies-Cast & Crew

    This is a set of stills containing filmographies for:

Trailers - More from Palace Films

    This is a set of trailers:

Trailers - More from the World Cinema Collection

    This is another set of trailers:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    There is no question about it: Region 1 wins by a large margin.


    The Sweet Hereafter is an interesting film about a lawyer trying to cope with his drug addicted daughter whilst trying to encourage the grief-stricken residents of a small Canadian town to mount a class action suit blaming the bus manufacturer for a tragic accident killing many of the town's children.

    The video transfer quality is poor, and the transfer is not in the correct aspect ratio nor 16x9 enhanced.

    The audio transfer quality is acceptable, although we are missing the discrete surround version of the soundtrack.

    The main extra is a long documentary.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDCustom HTPC (Asus A7N266-VM, Athlon XP 2400+, 512MB, LiteOn LTD-165S, WinXP, WinDVD5 Platinum), using RGB output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum/AVIA. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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Comments (Add)
Aspect ratio and open matte - REPLY POSTED
Cheap is the word - Cassidy (The bionic man)
Timelines - REPLY POSTED
Sweet Hereafter IS a Panavision hence anamorphic film! - REPLY POSTED
More on Aspect Ratio of Sweet Hereafter - Michael G