Denmark's Susanne Bier is in top form with this provocative, timely film that becomes a potent drama with domestic, especially parental issues at its core.
In A Better World (in Danish with English subtitles and the country's entry for the Academy Awards) stars Mikael Persbrandt, Trine Dyrholm, and Ulrich Thomsen.
The maker of notable Danish films like After The Wedding has Persbrandt's Anton as her linchpin - he's a physician at home in quiet Danish hamlet while also working in a volatile dictatorial African country at a refugee camp. As the troubling, intriguing tale develops one understands the tribulations for the medical man.
On the homefront, Anton is on the verge of a divorce from estranged wife Marianne (Dyrholm) and their older, sensitive 10-year-old boy Elias can't stand up to a class bully named Sofus. But, a new classmate in a perilous, repressed Christian, who's just moved from London with father Claus (Thomsen, strong in Bier's Brothers opposite Connie Nielsen) comes to Elias's aid and soon become quite amicable. Claus and his son are devastated after his wife succumbing from cancer and is at a loss with Christian's insensitive, manic nature.
Life-changing crucibles in disparate ways are in store for Anton (more than jaded from his life in Africa) and his resentful son who'll have equal time with his parents. As the proceedings become more drastic, Christian, Elias and Anton will confront Lars (Kim Bodnia), a cruel mechanic.
In A Better World deftly details the turmoil and violence in ways that make a parable resonate as a coming-of-age tale that questions the credibility and importance of paternal influence. There's also the struggle to get a handle on the divisive personal and political sides of life as the wise director and co-writer along with usual partner Anders Thomas Jensen has the performers sympathizing with what is confusing and damaging. The tension hinges truthfully on revenge and redemption with a societal pull of the obstacles that sadly too many have to face.