ADFF review: In a Better World

Director Suzanne Bier delivers an anti-war message from a microcosm with strong performances that make light of some of the clunky plot devices.

In a Better World
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Director: Suzanne Bier

Starring: Mikael Persbrandt, Ulrich Thompson, Trine Dryholm

The Danish title Haevnen translated into English means "revenge", and retaliation is the key concept in this unsettling tale.

The director Suzanne Bier is at her best when dealing with the raw emotion that comes when family relationships fall apart. Films such as Brothers, After the Wedding and Open Hearts have all highlighted how death, war and unexpected tragedy can affect even the best relationships. Here the marriage between Anton (Persbrandt) and Marianne (Dryholm) has disintegrated. Anton works in Africa as a doctor; the challenging nature of the job and the months away have taken their toll, and he cheats on his wife. She cannot forgive him and the couple decides to divorce, to the shock of their two young sons.

It adds to the powerful impact of the story that we learn about the reasons for the marriage break-up through the actions of their oldest son Elias (Rygaard). He gets picked on at school, until a new kid, Christian (Nielsen) decides to take on the role of his protector.

Christian himself is trying to come to terms with his mother's death from cancer and his dad (Thomsen) is struggling to raise him. Out of all this sadness comes an incredible friendship between Elias and Christian, but one that is bonded through violence when Christian hospitalises the school bully.

Believing that striking in retaliation will solve all their problems, the children learn the hard way that aggression is not necessarily the answer in what is, for the most part, an intriguing anti-war film played out in a small Danish town. The performances and strong direction make light of some clunky plot devices.

Screening today, Emirates Palace, 3pm