Black-and-white issues get grayer in the 2010 Best Foreign Language Oscar winner, Susanne Bier’s In a Better World. Like her previous Brothers (also written by Anders Thomas Jensen), the film shows the links between the morally ambiguous enterprises of the West in Third World countries and similar quandaries back home.
In this case, Anton (Mikael Persbrandt), a Danish doctor working in an African refugee camp, finds his pacifism challenged not just by the atrocities of a local warlord but by the abuse inflicted on his teenage son, Elias (Markus Rygaard), back home in Denmark. Since the family is originally Swedish, and Swedes are despised by the Danes (who knew?), Elias is a prime target for the school bully.
Instead of the pre-teen vampire living next door, as in Let the Right One In, it’s the cold-blooded new kid in school, the non-cheek-turning Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen), who becomes Elias’s defender. Christian’s philosophy of beating the shit out of the bad guys, or worse, conflicts with that of Elias’s dad, and both sides have a point. Which is lost in Bier’s treacly resolution involving hugs and pop psychology. Bier takes the seemingly irresolvable differences between the way the things should be and the way they are and reduces them to the reassuring platitudes found only in a movie world.
>> READ: Peter Keough's review of The Conspirator <<