A better world

A new family drama from Denmark
Mikael Persbrandt, Trine Dyrholm and Markus Rygaard
Directed by Susanne Bier

The Danes aren’t exactly the kings of comedy. Anything that comes out of Northern Europe (“land of the vikings” to the Happy Madison set) is, shall we say, meditative: tortured characters reach a crossroad and, resorting to no new elements or people for assistance, are forced to make a major improvement to their lot in life after facing an impasse. Susanne Bier (Things we lost in the fire) is just one of those craftsmen of intensely-wrought human dramas, except that she does it best among her countrymen. “A better world,” whose rights were bought by SONY for an April theatrical release is Denmark’s entry for the foreign film section at the Oscars this year. This is Bier’s second shot at an Oscar (After the wedding was her first go), with some very similar narrative elements.

Anton is a doctor who commutes between his home in an idyllic town in Denmark, and his work at an African refugee camp. In these two very different worlds, he and his family are faced with conflicts that lead them to difficult choices between revenge and forgiveness.

Anton and his wife Marianne, who have two young sons, are separated and struggling with the possibility of divorce. Their older, ten-year-old son Elias is being bullied at school, until he is defended by Christian, a new boy who has just moved from London with his father, Claus. Christian’s mother recently lost her battle with cancer, and Christian is greatly troubled by her death.

Elias and Christian quickly form a strong bond, but when Christian involves Elias in a dangerous act of revenge with potentially tragic consequences, their friendship is tested and lives are put in danger.