Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111 (2000)

Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111 (2000)
 
 

Aftermath of a Disaster

Kate Nelligan and Hugh Thompson in Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111 (2000)

Prior to watching "Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111" I knew nothing of Swissair Flight which in 1998 crashed just off of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia killing all 229 passengers. But then you don't need to know anything about it because this as the title may suggest focuses on the aftermath of the crash and how it affects those involved from bereaved families to those who witnessed gruesome things during the initial search for survivors. And "Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111" is a moving movie, beautifully written, directed and acted to tell how this crash, and I am sure other crashes, affect people in different ways.

"Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111" starts shortly after the crash as the coast guard and fisherman hook objects out of the sea, in particular fisherman Everett Barkhouse (Hugh Thompson - The Memory Keeper's Daughter) who fishes out a torn army jumper which before handing it over stitches the ripped sleeve back together. That may sound strange but it is important and is what connects him to Kate O'Rourke (Kate Nelligan - The Cider House Rules), one of the many bereaved family members who arrive in the area in hope that their loved ones will have survived, because the jumper belonged to her daughter Emma (Kristin Booth). As Kate searches for answers, not only as to what happened but why Everett stitched the jumper together Everett has to deal with the horrors which he saw, affecting him in such a way that he can't bring himself to go back out to sea.

Hugh Thompson in Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111 (2000)

To be honest I don't think you can judge "Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111" in direct relation to what happened because in many ways the appeal of the movie is in the generic way it looks at the aftermath of a crash and as such it could have been any plane crash. Maybe the relation to the actual Swissair Flight 111 is stronger than I know with characters based on real people but for those like me who know nothing of that tragic crash it still works as a look at the aftermath of a crash.

As such you could say there is an obvious side to "Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111" as we watch Kate arrive initially in hope that maybe Emma had survived and in desperate need to be proactive in trying to find her. But it is not just a cliche because we go step by step with her as she learns that not only did no one survive but also the impact of the crash meant that the majority of those who died would only be identified via DNA. It makes you realise how different real life is to most movies which touch on this subject and when you see scenes of belongings laid out in a vast warehouse it is impossible not to be moved. The same with how other bereaved families deal with the loss of a loved one and the need to find closure and move on

But "Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111" is not just about Kate and her need to understand because it is also about Everett and the emotional impact what he saw has on him. Withdrawn and unable to talk about the horror we see how first it affects his ability to work and the knock on effect is how it affects his family and children. You truly begin to understand how horrific what he witnessed was but also how the only way he could try and cope was to keep it to himself.

And that is not all because we also learn about other things from the way those sent to help with the bereaved suffer just as much to the wider impact of the crash. You see the press swarming by the sides, not intruding but constantly there cameras clicking as pictures are taken and almost ominously lurking like an impenetrable wall. And then you see how on a wider scale it affects the community as a restricted area around the crash site means that the fishermen's livelihoods are threatened.

What this all boils down to is that "Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111" is actually quite a remarkable movie which paints an impressive picture of the emotional and wider impact of a plane crash. I don't know how true it is to the Swissair Flight 111 crash but as a thoughtful drama which looks at the aftermath of a tragic plane crash it is quite special.

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