The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

Grief is an unfortunate yet unavoidable process. This can be related to and can include loss of a relationship, job, or physical or emotional loss of a loved one. While there are various stages of grief, each individual handles it differently. They may exact revenge, anger, guilt, or detachment. Regardless, these events are life-altering. They halt the anticipated course of our life trajectory, interrupting any previous sense of rationale we once held. “The Sweet Hereafter”, a 1997 Canadian film directed by Atom Egoyan, explores the complex web of emotions associated with grief and bereavement following great tragedy impacting a rural community in British Columbia.

Mitchell Stephens (Ian Holm), an outside lawyer with a complex and contentious relationship with his daughter Zoe (Caerthan Banks), ventures to a small Canadian town during a harsh winter. He is representing a group of citizens in a class action lawsuit for negligence against their own town and a bus company. We quickly learn the true, heartbreaking nature of this lawsuit – a bus accident claiming the lives of fourteen children. Carefully paced, Stephens unearths the raw reality, fears, and new challenges of those affected by the crash, wrestling with his role in Zoe’s battle with drug addiction.

There are many techniques enhancing storytelling used in this devastating yet beautiful film. Firstly, it is crafted such that the story is out of sequence. This aids to juxtapose between a sorrowful present and a once joyful past, but also to highlight parallels between Stephens’ suffering and that of the community. In addition, “The Pied Piper” is incorporated into the story, showcasing similarities between a legend known to many and this town’s tragedy. Nicole Burnell (Sarah Polley) narrates, and her role as “the lame child” serves as a metaphor for her own fate. As a whole, these techniques enhance the palpability of the film’s catastrophic truths.

“The Sweet Hereafter” is spoken within a phrase near the end of the film. Nicole recites that the once united community is now emotionally disbanded, living separate “strange and new” lives in the “sweet hereafter”. I initially felt that there is a great sense of irony in the title, as the future following a mass casualty seems quite grim. However, in the process of grief, acceptance is generally deemed as the final stage. I do not believe that we “move on” from tragic events as they will forever be imprinted in our memories, but we try to create a new sense of normalcy through an understanding and acceptance of our past. Through this, we may be able to find peace and meaning in the new paths we forge.

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I do not own the above image.

This is part of the Ultimate 90’s Blogathon hosted by Kim from Tranquil Dreams and Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews. Please head on over and check out the other awesome entries!

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Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

Road trips have been a mainstay of travelling for as long as motorized vehicles have been invented. They involve a small group of individuals who often reveal a variety of emotions and opinions within a claustrophobic, confined space. This may create closer bonds among said parties, or invoke greater distance and argumentativeness. Regardless, personal truths, epiphanies, and an increased sense of clarity can emerge from such heated discussions. All of the above occur in the vibrant 1994 Australian film “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”, whereby dramatic music magnifies the vast, tortuous landscape and diverse wildlife of the breathtakingly beautiful Australian Outback.

Anthony ‘Tick’ Belrose (Hugo Weaving) accepts a proposal to perform at a casino managed by his estranged wife in Alice Springs. He works as a drag queen in Sydney named Mitzi Del Bra in Sydney, and asks two other fabulous Sydney queens to join him – grieving Bernadette Bassinger (Terrence Stamp) who identifies as transgender, and flamboyant Adam Whitely a.k.a. Felicia Jollygoodfellow (Guy Pearce). In a cheaply bribed bus christened “Priscilla”, they travel to their destination with an extremely healthy dose of glitter, glamour, ABBA, and some stellar lip-syncing. Unfortunately, they encounter and experience intense discrimination, ignorance, and frustration. However, compassion, acceptance, bonding, mutual respect, and self-discovery grow throughout their journey.

In all of her glory, Priscilla acts as a vehicle to help the characters learn more about themselves and others through the act and art of conversation in a barren, isolated region. They each are confronted with fears surrounding relationships, judgment, and authenticity throughout the film, emerging with enhanced positivity, well-being, and self-actualization. This type of voyage is quite relatable to all individuals, as we all suppress aspects and tasks in our daily lives that seem insurmountable. Nevertheless, challenging these perceived and real fears can allow us to evolve into a more fulfilled, genuine version of ourselves.

priscilla-shoe-bus

I do not own the above image.

This post is a part of the Ultimate 90’s Blogathon hosted by Drew at Drew’s Movie Reviews and Kim at Tranquil Dreams. Please go to the sites and reminisce about the decade that was…the 90’s!

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