The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 19, 2013

Subject lives in two worlds in ‘A Better World’


Star Beacon


Mikael Persbrandt plays Anton, a man who lives in two different worlds with two very different sets of challenges in the film “In A Better World.”

Anton is drifting apart from his wife while straining to work as a doctor in a dangerous and crude African refugee camp while trying to keep his life going in a Denmark town.

He and wife Marianne (Trine Dyrholm) are looking at a separation. Meanwhile, his son, Elias, 10, is being bullied in school. Every day, his bicycle tires are flattened and the stems are taken out so he can’t simply inflate them.

Then there’s the new boy in town, Christian, played by William Nielsen, who moved from London with his recently widowed father, Claus, played by Ulrich Thomsen.

Christian has his share of problems, most manifested by the death of his mother and his hatred for his father, whom Christian perceives as to be relieved by her death.

When a bully turns his anger from Elias to Christian, Christian retaliates by clubbing the bully and threatening him with a knife.

In this movie at least, bullying seems to be tolerated in Denmark. When Elias’ parents are initially called in to discuss the bullying, a school administrator seems to indicate his parents’ marital problems are a part of the problem.

Even after Christian violently beats the bully, the ramifications don’t appear serious.

Anton, meanwhile, is juggling a lot of issues. One day he must stand up to a tribal leader who demands treatment and laughs when a woman dies.

He must operate under crude conditions, under dusty tents with marauding gangs in Jeeps shooting off guns.

He comes home to a cold wife and a confused son.

At one point, Anton separates his son and another boy who are fighting. He finds himself the target of a bully himself. We know Anton isn’t a coward. He stood up to a fierce tribal leader.

But in the case of the local bully, he takes his lumps and leaves. But Elias is horrified.

Christian, with so many anger issues, decides he’s going to get revenge by building a pipebomb and placing it under the bully’s vehicle. If it’s exploded early in the morning, it won’t hurt anyone, Christian decides.

But the horrific blast does have its consequences.

This film seemingly dumps us into a group of interesting people and their compelling lives. We hang for awhile and the movie ends. There are no certain conclusions. There’s no happy endings.

Their lives go on and so do ours.

The characters are interesting and compelling. There are many side stories to keep us interested.

The actors, even the younger ones, know their stuff.

“In A Better World” is indeed a better movie.

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