'Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Russell Banks is the latest novelist whose works are being plundered by filmmakers. In 1997, director Atom Egoyan created an acclaimed screen adaptation of Banks' "The Sweet Hereafter," a penetrating examination of the aftermath of a school bus tragedy in a small town. The film won the top prize at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival and two Oscar nominations. Banks' "Continental Drift" is in the process of being developed...And in the meantime, veteran director and screenwriter Paul Schrader has ventured into Banks territory -- a distinctly American landscape peopled by unheroic characters of questionable bearings who are beset by circumstances and complicated emotions that tend to go astray. Working with a fine cast including Nick Nolte, Willem Dafoe, James Coburn and Sissy Spacek, Schrader has transferred the full power and resonance of Banks' great novel "Affliction" to the screen.
--Deborah Hornblow, Hartford Courant
THE SWEET HEREAFTER
'Egoyan's film, based on the novel by Russell Banks, is not about the tragedy of dying, but about the grief of surviving. In the film the Browning poem about the Pied Piper is read, and we remember that the saddest figure in that poem was the lame boy who could not join the others in following the piper. In “The Sweet Hereafter,” an important character is a teenage girl who loses the use of her legs in the accident; she survives, but seems unwilling to accept the life left for her...This story is not about lawyers or the law, not about small-town insularity, not about revenge (although that motivates an unexpected turning point). It is more about the living dead--about people carrying on their lives after hope and meaning have gone. The film is so sad, so tender toward its characters...This is one of the best films of the year, an unflinching lament for the human condition.'