Analysis of the sweet hereafter

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Mitchell Stephens Mitchell Stephens starts off as an emotionally fragmented and estranged father who is unsure of his daughter's identity. Throughout the movie, he shows empathy towards others, particularly those who are going through difficult times. As he becomes more involved in investigating the Lambston case, he becomes determined and driven to find out the truth. He is an idealistic lawyer who is passionate about defending the innocent and committed to his beliefs despite the emotional toll it takes on him. While Mitchell's character arc is well-developed and engaging, there is room for improvement in terms of his initial estrangement from his daughter. Although it adds depth to his character, it does not receive as much attention as it could have, which limits its impact on the overall arc.
To improve Mitchell's character arc, more attention could be given to the estrangement between him and his daughter. This could add more emotional depth to his character and his motivations throughout the film. Additionally, more exploration could be done into his emotional journey as he deals with his own personal struggles and those of the victims and their families.
Sam Sam starts off as a protective but uncertain father who supports his daughter's singing performance. As his daughter becomes struggling with addiction, he becomes depressed and needs security. However, he begins to rebuild his relationship with his daughter Nicole, and becomes a supportive, caring, and practical father who is willing to do whatever it takes to provide for his family and navigate the legal battles. He ends up becoming weary from the legal battles and wanting to move on, but understands the importance of supporting his daughter. While Sam's character arc shows some growth in his relationship with his daughter Nicole, it mostly centers around his role as a provider and protector, and his involvement in the lawsuit against the town. There could have been more exploration of his emotions and the impact of the accident on him as an individual.
To improve the character arc, there could be more scenes that show Sam's inner struggles and emotional journey, and how he deals with his own guilt and shame. This can add more depth and dimension to his character, making him more relatable to the audience. Additionally, his relationship with Nicole can be further explored, with more emphasis on their emotional connection and how they support each other through difficult times. This can add greater emotional weight to the storyline and make Sam's character arc more impactful.
Nicole Nicole starts off as a young girl excited about singing, then becomes a kind and nurturing caretaker and reader of bedtime stories. She later becomes conflicted and emotionally complex, struggling with her feelings towards Sam and Lydia. After the accident, she becomes a recovering victim who later struggles to come to terms with her new disability. She then becomes traumatized, conflicted, and struggling with survivor's guilt, before eventually becoming a strong survivor grappling with the emotional impact of the accident and her role in it. The character arc for Nicole is fairly well-defined but could use more depth and development throughout the movie. It feels like some of her struggles and emotional changes happen too quickly or without enough exploration.
To improve the character arc for Nicole, the movie could show more scenes and moments that explore her emotional journey throughout the movie. This could include more moments of her dealing with her feelings for Sam and Lydia, as well as more scenes of her processing her survivor's guilt and coming to terms with her disability. Additionally, more moments that showcase her talents and interests in literature and art could be incorporated to add more depth to her character.
Risa Risa starts off as a tired and suspicious motel owner but evolves into a character wrestling with her own inner turmoil and moral failings due to her affair with Billy. She eventually realizes that she is not a victim but is complicit in the relationship, leading her to make a decision to move on and start anew. While Risa undergoes some development, it feels rushed and underdeveloped. She is given a lot of labels but not enough exploration of her character. Her decision to move on feels abrupt and unearned.
To improve Risa's character arc, the movie could focus more on her inner struggles and give her more agency in her decision-making. Perhaps there could be scenes where she actively questions and reflects on her actions, leading to a more gradual and organic evolution. Additionally, her decision to move on could be better supported by earlier scenes that show her dissatisfaction with her life and a desire for change.
Billy Billy starts as a flawed and morally compromised character who is struggling with his personal and family life. He goes through a journey of emotional turmoil and grief, which leads him to seek justice for his lost children and eventually care for his community and help Nicole. The character arc is well defined, however, Billy's cheater persona is never fully addressed in the narrative, which creates a dissonance as the audience is expected to root for him in the end.
To improve the character arc, the writer could have introduced a redemptive arc for Billy. He could have faced the consequences of his actions and shown remorse, which would make him a more relatable character. Additionally, the relationship between him and his wife could have been explored to show the complexity of the marital problems they were facing.
Mitchell Mitchell starts off as a successful lawyer who is disconnected from the world around him. However, after meeting Zoe and being involved in the bus accident case, he becomes more empathetic and invested in the people he is representing. He faces his inner demons and learns to move on from the tragedy of his daughter's near-death experience. In the end, he becomes a more compassionate and understanding person who prioritizes the well-being of those around him. While Mitchell's arc is well-developed, it often feels like his story takes a backseat to the stories of other characters, particularly Billy Ansel and Zoe. Additionally, his realization and growth at the end of the movie feel rushed and unearned, as it is not always clear why he is suddenly able to move past his personal losses.
To improve Mitchell's character arc, the movie could have spent more time establishing his emotional journey and the impact of his daughter's near-death experience on his life. It would also benefit from exploring his relationship with Zoe more fully, as it seems like it has the potential to reveal more about his character. Additionally, the movie could have focused more on his interactions with his clients and the legal process, rather than relying on dramatic scenes of emotional turmoil. Finally, his transformation at the end could have been more subtly and gradually developed throughout the movie, rather than feeling like it comes out of nowhere in the final act.
Mary Mary starts off as an overwhelmed family member who is trying to protect Nicole from the truth about the accident and lawsuit. She avoids uncomfortable conversations and is disapproving, uncomfortable with discussing certain topics, and quick to change the subject. However, as the movie progresses, Mary becomes more and more supportive of her family. She becomes a caring mother who is trying to keep the peace between Sam and Billy while also dealing with the emotional aftermath of the accident. She is supportive of her daughter but also struggling with her own emotional trauma. By the end of the movie, Mary is still supportive of her husband, but conflicted over dropping the lawsuit. Mary's character arc is not very well defined throughout the movie. While she starts off as stressed and overwhelmed, her growth as a character is not very evident until towards the end of the movie. Additionally, her conflict over dropping the lawsuit feels rushed and not fully developed.
To improve Mary's character arc, the movie could focus more on her growth as a character throughout the movie. She could have more scenes where she is actively trying to improve her relationship with her family and take charge of her emotions. Additionally, the conflict over dropping the lawsuit could be woven more seamlessly into the plot and given more time to develop, so it feels like a natural progression for her character.