Top critical review
9 people found this helpful
`In a Better World' is an examination of fatherhood, masculinity and justice.
on 14 July 2012
Anton (Mikael Persbrandt) is a doctor at an African refugee camp, Claus (Ulrich Thomsen) is a businessman whose wife has just died of cancer. Their worlds collide through their sons, Anton's son is Elias (Markus Rygaard) and Claus's son is Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen).
Christian starts a new school, and befriends Elias who is often bullied. Christian is full of anger and unresolved grief over the loss of his mother, and naturally takes it out on his father. Seeing Elias being bullied, Christian channels his anger into persuading Elias that the only true of course of action is revenge. Anton has separated from his wife, and when he is not working in Africa he looks after his children. Anton is involved in a very different form of bullying, not just in Africa but at home where he is involved in a petty squabble between his younger son and another boy and his father Lars (Kim Bodnia). Anton sets an example to his children through nonviolent confrontation, but Elias doesn't see it this way and decides on a different route of action with Christian taking the lead.
Anton and Claus lead extremely busy lives, to the detriment of their relationship with their sons. They have their own sense of loss and regret, both seemingly failing as parents and forced to watch their sons take matters into their own hands. There's a fine balance in the film between characters who act with cruelty and those who act with kindness, and which poses moral choices for those who fall somewhere in-between.
The acting from everyone is excellent, especially by the stoic Mikael Persbrandt and William Jøhnk Nielsen. The direction from Susanne Bier is good, but the film is let down by the predictability of the parallel stories. The African story was contrived and felt almost like a caricature, the film could've worked just as well set in Denmark. Everything worked just a bit too seamlessly, I expected messier outcomes before the inevitable reconciliation's. `In a Better World' is an examination of fatherhood, masculinity and justice. I left the film thinking about the manipulative plot more than the moral issues it raises.