Mitchell Stephens (Holm), a big city lawyer, descends upon a small Canadian town to investigate a tragic bus accident that robbed the community of all but one of its young children. Beset by family problems of his own - his daughter is hopelessly addicted to drugs - Stephens nonetheless rallies round the surviving parents in an attempt to persuade them to unite and sue the culprit responsible for the tragedy. The testimony of Nicole Burnell (Polley), the lone survivor, is pivotal and under pressure from her father she decides to give evidence. But what is her relationship with the truth?
Egoyan's adaptation of Russell Banks' novel stands as one of his most conventional works but it's no less rewarding for it. As usual Egoyan looks at the essence of guilt and the complexity of human relationships in all their rich variety. Familial conflicts are similarly explored with intelligence and sensitivity with the actions of those lacking in morality placed under the director's metaphorical microscope.
It's sumptuously performed by Egoyan regulars such as David Hemblen, Greenwood and Maury Chaykin (all recognisable from seminal earlier works) while Ian Holm gives one of his most assured performances. Paul Sarossy delivers his customarily crystalline visuals and Michael Danna's haunting, evocative score - part traditional, part contemporary - acts as the perfect companion.
"The Sweet Hereafter" is yet more evidence of Egoyan's mastery of his craft and as good a starting point as any for those wishing to immerse themselves in his impressive filmography.