In a Better World: an ambitious contemplation on violence

How do we respond to violence without perpetuating a cycle of violence?  What and how do we tell our kids?  Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier (Brothers/Brodre, After the Wedding, Things We Lost in the Fire) takes on these questions through the stories of two 12-year-old boys and their well-meaning but troubled parents.

A schoolboy bully is handled through shock and awe, but the responses to other incidents of violence are far messier.  A parent’s teachable moment about pacifism doesn’t seem effective, and the boys fashion their own disproportionate solution.  One of the fathers, a do-gooder doctor who puts in time at a hell hole of an African refugee camp, must face pure evil in the form of a local warlord.  It’s an often tense drama.

In a Better World benefits from outstanding performances, especially by the boy actors, William Jøhnk Juels Nielsen and Markus Rygaard.

In a Better World won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture.  I didn’t like In a Better World as much as Brothers and After the Wedding, but it’s still an ambitious and successful film.

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