Analysis of The sweet hereafter

Screenplay Rating:

Executive Summary

Areas of Improvement
Summary This movie follows Mitchell, a lawyer who wakes up with his family and goes about his day, including a trip to a car wash and a phone call with his daughter Zoe. He then meets Risa and Wendell at a run-down motel, where they discuss the Lambston family's issues and criminal background, and suggest the Ottos as potential supportive parents. Mitchell then has a conversation with Dolores about an accident and Billy Ansel's involvement. Throughout the movie, Mitchell opens up about his struggles as a father to his drug-addicted daughter, while Billy engages in a secret affair with Risa. Mitchell also meets with the Ottos to discuss representing them in a lawsuit regarding their son's death in a bus accident. He opens up about his own struggles and promises to make the responsible party pay. Nicole, a survivor of the bus accident, has her own storyline as she recovers and prepares to testify in the lawsuit. The movie tackles themes of family struggles, addiction, justice, and the aftermath of tragedies.

Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The plot/story of the screenplay has some strong elements, such as the exploration of complex family dynamics and the emotional turmoil experienced by the characters. The use of multiple locations and characters adds depth to the story. However, there are some areas that could be improved. The transitions between scenes and characters can be confusing at times, making it difficult for the audience to follow the story. Additionally, some scenes feel repetitive and could benefit from tighter editing. The overall pacing of the screenplay could also be improved to maintain the audience's interest throughout. Despite these flaws, the screenplay has potential and offers a compelling exploration of themes such as addiction, loss, and the pursuit of justice.
Suggestions: To improve the plot/story of the screenplay, consider clarifying the transitions between scenes and characters to enhance the audience's understanding. Streamline the repetitive scenes and focus on the most impactful moments to maintain a consistent pace. Additionally, consider further developing the character arcs to create stronger emotional connections with the audience. This could involve exploring the motivations and internal conflicts of the characters in more depth. Finally, ensure that the themes and messages of the screenplay are effectively conveyed through dialogue and visual storytelling.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:


Mitchell is a compassionate and dedicated lawyer who is also struggling with personal issues, including his drug-addicted daughter. He is determined to seek justice for his clients and protect innocent children.


Zoe is a troubled young woman who is struggling with addiction and personal resentment towards her father, Mitchell. She is angry and frustrated with his lack of response to her struggles and feels unheard and alone. Despite her struggles, she is fiercely independent and determined to overcome her addiction and find a sense of peace and happiness in her life.


Nicole is a young girl who has experienced a traumatic accident and is now involved in a lawsuit. She is determined to tell the truth and seeks justice for herself and others. As a result of her accident, she is wheelchair-bound, which has made her emotional and reflective. She is curious about the world around her and has a caring attitude towards others.


Billy is a complex character who is involved in a secret affair with Risa while dealing with his own emotional struggles. He is a grieving father who is angry, disillusioned, and resentful towards the community.


Wanda is a middle-aged woman who has been through a lot of emotional trauma. She lost her son in a tragic accident and has been struggling to come to terms with it. She is a passionate and hardworking woman who runs her own business, but her grief often gets in the way of her personal and professional life. She tends to lash out at people who provoke her and can become dangerously obsessed with a single goal, like seeking justice for her son's death. Wanda is a strong-willed woman and refuses to let anyone stand in the way of what she believes is right.


Hartley is a middle-aged man with disheveled hair and a scruffy beard. He has a laid-back demeanor and often appears to be stoned. Despite his seemingly apathetic exterior, Hartley is a supportive and loving husband. He is quiet but observant, and often provides a thoughtful perspective on situations. He has a deep love for his son and feels the pain of his loss every day.

Hartley Otto

Hartley Otto is a loving husband and father who experiences immense grief and trauma after the tragic loss of his son in a bus accident. He struggles to come to terms with his loss and is consumed with seeking justice for his son's death. He is a compassionate and caring individual who is willing to go to great lengths to ensure that his son's death is not in vain. Despite his pain, he remains supportive of his wife's pursuit of legal representation and works closely with her to achieve justice.


Dolores is a middle-aged woman who has faced several hardships in her life, including the death of her husband and her son's involvement in a tragic school bus accident. She is initially portrayed as a quiet and reserved individual who spends most of her time alone, reflecting on her past. Despite her somber demeanor, she is fiercely protective of her family and will stop at nothing to clear their names. As the story progresses, Dolores becomes more confident and vocal about her beliefs, challenging the town's authority and ultimately playing a pivotal role in the final resolution of the case.


Sam is a middle-aged father who has dedicated his life to taking care of his daughter after a tragic accident. He is kind-hearted, nervous, and eager to please others. He is financially struggling due to the ongoing legal battles, but he remains determined to provide for his family. He is conflicted between his desire for justice and his guilt over the accident. Sam is also involved with a lawyer named Mr. Stephens who is helping with the legal proceedings.

Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Mitchell Mitchell's character arc in the screenplay is one of growth and redemption. At the beginning of the movie, he is emotionally stunned and struggling to communicate with his daughter. As the film progresses, he becomes increasingly concerned for her well-being and determined to help her. However, when he takes on the case of the Otto family, his personal struggles threaten to impede his work. He struggles to balance his role as a father and his duty to seek justice for his clients. Through his interactions with Dolores and Nicole, he begins to realize the importance of empathy and understanding in both his personal and professional life. In the end, he is able to help his daughter and successfully bring justice for the Otto family. The character arc for Mitchell is well-developed and provides an interesting dichotomy between his personal struggles and his professional duties. However, it could benefit from a clearer through-line that ties his personal growth to his professional success. Additionally, some of the descriptions of his character feel repetitive and could be condensed for a stronger impact.
To improve the character arc for Mitchell, consider linking his personal growth more closely to his professional success. For example, maybe his understanding of empathy and compassion helps him win the case for the Otto family. Additionally, consider trimming some of the repetitive character descriptions to make each one more impactful and memorable.
Zoe Over the course of the movie, Zoe begins to open up to her father and seek help for her addiction. Through therapy and self-reflection, she begins to understand the root of her anger and resentment towards her father and learns to forgive him. With the support of her family, she works towards overcoming her addiction and repairing her relationships. By the end of the movie, Zoe has found a sense of peace and acceptance in her life, and has rebuilt a strong relationship with her father based on understanding and forgiveness. The character arc for Zoe is strong and well-defined, but could benefit from more nuance and complexity. While her struggles with addiction and resentment towards her father are relatable, they feel somewhat cliché and predictable. Adding more depth and complexity to these struggles could make the character arc more interesting and compelling.
To improve the character arc for Zoe, consider incorporating more nuanced and complex emotions and motivations for her struggles with addiction and resentment towards her father. For example, explore her feelings of guilt and shame for her addiction, as well as her fears and anxieties about the future. Additionally, consider adding more obstacles and challenges for Zoe to overcome throughout the movie, rather than having her struggles resolve too quickly and easily.
Nicole Nicole begins the movie as a promising young singer who feels a deep connection with her father. However, the accident changes everything, leaving her paralyzed and struggling to navigate through legal proceedings. Over time, she becomes more determined to seek justice for herself and the other victims of the accident, taking a more active role in the case. However, as she starts to feel resentment towards her parents for their past actions, she also begins to discover a new sense of identity and purpose, ultimately finding peace with herself and her situation. The character arc is compelling and well-established, but the progression could be clearer and more focused. It is not entirely clear how Nicole goes from feeling guilty to being determined to seek justice. Additionally, her relationship with her father could be explored in greater depth, as it seems to play a key role in the character's development.
To improve the character arc, the conflict between Nicole and her parents could be emphasized further. Perhaps they could have different ideas about how to handle the legal proceedings, leading to tension and a more nuanced portrayal of their relationship. Additionally, Nicole's emotional journey could be more explicitly connected to her identity as a young woman with a disability, highlighting the challenges and strengths that come with this particular experience.
Billy Billy initially comes across as dismissive and uncaring towards Risa's concerns, but later proves to have a complex personality as he struggles with his own personal issues while being engaged in a secret affair. However, he goes through a character arc where he recognizes his mistakes and tries to make amends. Throughout the movie, Billy evolves from a conflicted man to a grieving and disillusioned character who ultimately becomes willing to help financially despite his prior resistance. The character of Billy has a strong foundation in terms of his complexity and the various conflicts he faces throughout the movie. However, his character arc could benefit from more depth and clarity about his motivations for his actions and decisions. Additionally, more emphasis could be given to his relationship with Risa, which could add another layer of complexity to his character arc.
To improve the character arc of Billy, it would be helpful to flesh out his backstory and motivations more, which would make his actions more understandable and impactful. Additionally, adding more scenes that explore his relationship with Risa could enhance the complexity of his character and make his eventual decisions more impactful. Overall, giving more definition to Billy's character and motivations could make for a more compelling character arc.
Wanda Throughout the movie, Wanda initially seeks vengeance against the person who caused her son's death. She becomes increasingly obsessed with this goal as time goes on, even going as far as breaking the law to achieve her desired outcome. However, as she confronts the truth about her son's death, Wanda begins to realize that the world is not always black and white. She must learn to forgive and let go of her anger to move on. Through her interactions with other characters, Wanda begins to see that there is more to life than just seeking revenge. By the end of the movie, she has come to terms with her son's death and is ready to move on with her life, albeit with a heavy heart. The character arc for Wanda is compelling, but it could use some more nuance and complexity. She seems to move from one extreme to the other without much middle ground. The character could use some more development in terms of her background and relationships with others, which would add more emotional weight to her story.
To improve the character arc, consider adding more backstory for Wanda, such as her relationship with her son and her past experiences with loss. Show how the events of the movie affect her relationships with other characters, especially those who challenge her beliefs. This will add more depth and dimension to her character, making her more relatable and sympathetic to the audience.
Hartley Throughout the movie, Hartley's character arc is one of growth and transformation. At the beginning, he appears to be somewhat checked out, perhaps due to his drug use. However, as the film progresses, he becomes more and more invested in the fight for justice for his son. He becomes more vocal and assertive, standing up to authority figures who try to dismiss Wanda's claims. By the end of the film, he is a fully-realized and engaged partner to Wanda in their pursuit of justice for their son. Overall, Hartley's character arc is effective and engaging. However, it could benefit from a bit more specificity in terms of what drives his transformation. He goes through a tremendous amount of emotional growth, but it would be helpful to see the specific moments or interactions that trigger each step. Additionally, it would be valuable to see more of his internal struggle - what specifically is holding him back at the beginning of the film, and what enables him to overcome that as the story progresses?
To improve Hartley's character arc, consider adding a few scenes that provide greater insight into his internal world. For example, a scene where he talks to Wanda about his fears and doubts could be helpful in establishing the stakes of his transformation. Additionally, scenes that build on his relationship with his son could be valuable in providing greater emotional resonance to his arc. Finally, consider looking for moments where he can take more active agency in the plot - there are times when his transformation feels somewhat reactive, and adding in moments where he takes meaningful action could help bring his arc to the forefront.
Hartley Otto Hartley Otto begins the movie as a grieving father who is solely focused on seeking justice for his son's death. He is convinced that the school bus company is responsible for the accident and goes to great lengths to find legal representation. As the movie progresses, he begins to realize that his desire for justice is driven by his pain and anger, rather than a true search for the truth. He comes to terms with his grief and learns to let go of his need for revenge, focusing instead on honoring his son's memory. By the end of the movie, he has become a source of strength and support for his wife and is able to move forward with his life, albeit still carrying the pain of his loss. The character arc for Hartley Otto is well-written and believable, but could benefit from some more emotional depth. While it is clear that he is grieving, there is not enough exploration of his emotional journey and how this affects his relationships with others. Additionally, there could be more exploration of his inner thoughts and feelings to truly capture the complexities of his grief.
To improve the character arc for Hartley Otto, consider including more scenes that explore his emotional journey and how it affects his relationships with others. Additionally, try to delve deeper into his inner thoughts and feelings to capture the complexities of his grief. This will make his character more relatable and engaging, and will help to heighten the emotional impact of the story overall.
Dolores Dolores starts off as a defeated woman, haunted by her past and uncertain about her future. Her character arc centers around her quest for redemption, as she strives to clear her family's name and come to terms with her own guilt. Initially reluctant to speak out about the accident, she eventually finds her voice and becomes a vital witness in the lawsuit. Through her testimony, she inspires others to come forward and seek justice for their loved ones. In the end, Dolores emerges as a strong and resilient woman who has overcome her past and is ready to face whatever challenges lie ahead. The character arc for Dolores is well-crafted and believable, but it could benefit from more nuance and complexity. While her transformation from a quiet and reserved individual to a confident and vocal advocate is inspiring, it would be more interesting to see her struggle with doubts and insecurities along the way. This would make her journey feel more authentic and relatable, and would also give her character greater depth.
One way to improve Dolores' character arc would be to explore her relationship with her deceased husband and how it has affected her emotionally. By delving deeper into her grief and the guilt she feels over her son's involvement in the accident, we can gain a better understanding of why she is initially so hesitant to speak out. Additionally, it would be interesting to see her interact with other characters in more intimate and revealing ways, perhaps through conversations with friends or family members. This would allow us to see different facets of her personality and make her character more multidimensional.
Sam Sam's character arc involves him reconciling with his daughter Nicole and finding a way to support his family through the ongoing legal struggles. He is torn between the financial need for the lawsuit and the emotional toll it is taking on his relationships. As the movie progresses, he becomes increasingly frustrated and stressed out. Ultimately, he realizes that his relationship with Nicole is the most important thing and he finds a way to make peace with the situation. Overall, Sam is a well-crafted character who is portrayed with depth and nuance. However, his character arc could be further developed to make it more satisfying. While it is clear that he is conflicted, the movie could provide more insight into his motivations and thoughts. Additionally, his relationship with Mr. Stephens could be further explored to add more complexity to his character.
To improve Sam's character arc, the movie could include more scenes that explore his emotions and thought processes. This could help the audience to understand his motivations and empathize with his struggle. Additionally, the movie could expand on his relationship with Mr. Stephens, perhaps showing how it has evolved over time. This could make the character arc more satisfying and add an additional layer of complexity to Sam's character.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
FamilyThe screenplay explores the dynamics and relationships within different families, including Mitchell's family, the Lambston family, and the Burnell family. It delves into the struggles, conflicts, and love that exist within these family units.Family is a central theme in the screenplay, as it explores the complexities and emotions that come with being part of a family. It examines the challenges, conflicts, and love that exist within different family dynamics.
IdentityThe screenplay delves into the characters' search for identity and their struggle to understand who they are and where they belong. This is seen through Zoe questioning her father's assumptions about her, Mitchell's uncertainty about his own identity, and Nicole's reflection on her guilt and survival after the accident.Identity is an important theme in the screenplay, as it explores the characters' search for self and their struggle to understand who they are and where they belong. It delves into their personal journeys of self-discovery and the challenges they face in defining their identities.
GuiltThe screenplay explores the theme of guilt, particularly through Nicole's feelings of guilt for surviving the accident while others did not. It also touches on Mitchell's guilt as a father and his struggles to help his drug-addicted daughter.Guilt is a significant theme in the screenplay, as it delves into the characters' feelings of guilt and the impact it has on their lives. It explores the complexities of guilt and the emotional turmoil it can create.
JusticeThe screenplay touches on the theme of justice, particularly through Mitchell's pursuit of justice for the families affected by the bus accident. It explores the legal battles, the desire for the responsible party to be held accountable, and the pursuit of justice for the victims.Justice is a theme that runs throughout the screenplay, as it explores the characters' pursuit of justice for the victims of the bus accident. It delves into the legal battles, the desire for accountability, and the quest for justice in the face of tragedy.
AddictionThe screenplay addresses the theme of addiction through Mitchell's struggles as a father to his drug-addicted daughter and the mention of Zoe's past struggles with addiction. It explores the impact of addiction on individuals and their families.Addiction is a theme that is explored in the screenplay, as it delves into the struggles and consequences of addiction on individuals and their families. It examines the challenges, emotions, and complexities that come with addiction.

Screenwriting Resources on Themes


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Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
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