Film Review: In a Better World

Oscar-winner In a Better World finally gets a UK release. The film is an absorbing drama that boasts excellent writing and directing.

Anton is a doctor who works in an African refugee camp, and commutes to his family home in Denmark. Anton and his wife are separated, while son Elias is bullied at school. Elias is befriended by new boy Christian, who has moved from London with his father following his mother’s passing. Elias and Christian bond quickly, but it is clear the latter is troubled by his mother’s death. This leads the boys into very dangerous territory…

Director Susanne Bier has carefully crafted the picture to produce a well-balanced and engaging film. The different narrative strands are developed sufficiently; there does not seem to be a hierarchy here. When some films feature a number of different strands, secondary narratives often are not given the necessary attention, or seem to be included to pad the film out. This is not the case with In a Better World, as each character and story is given due care and shows depth.

The storytelling in the film is superb. There is just the right amount of tension and drama. The intention of In a Better World does not seem to be to shock the audience, though this is can be a consequence of the unfolding drama. There is some catharsis in the actions of certain characters, however this is usually short-lived. The film seems to provoke reflection above any stronger emotion.

Bier’s film deals with some serious issues. Most prominent of these is violence, which appears in the different strands. What is refreshing about In a Better World is the tact that it takes in regards to this issue. The film does not patronise viewers. It does not judge the characters overly, or indicate too strongly about the opinion the audience should take.

In a Better World has a very natural quality to its visuals. There is a strong contrast between the two hospitals depicted in the film. The suggestion here is that these two separate world still have the similar issues despite their different contexts.

The acting in the film is pretty much faultless all round. William Jøhnk Juels Nielsen stands out in particular as Christian. Nielsen shows a remarkable presence for such a young actor. Mikael Persbrandt is also great as Anton.

In a Better World is well-executed film that is likely to stay with viewers even after the credits have rolled.