In A Better World Review

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Swedish doctor Anton (Persbrandt) divides his time between his home in a rural Danish town and the African refugee camp where he treats the victims of local war lords. Back at home his 10 year-old son Elias (Rygaard) is being picked on at school, until Christian (Nielsen) steps in to defend him.


Despite winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, this is a rather melodramatic study of misplaced might that centres on the strained father-son relationships of divorced Swedish missionary doctor Mikael Persbrandt and teenager Markus Rygaard and his classmate William Jøhnk Nielsen and his newly widowed father, Ulrich Thomsen. In comparing the brutality of an African warlord with the recklessness of a schoolboy, Susanne Bier risks trivialising her discussion of pacifism, loyalty, bullying and retribution. Moreover, by focusing on the notion of violence begetting violence, she neglects such other themes as male responses to bereavement, class and racial antagonisms and the still patronising attitude of civilised societies to the developing world. Often fascinating, but far-fetched.

It's undeniably thoughtful and impressively crafted by the talented Bier but its pair of parallel storylines don't live up to all that Oscar hype.