In a Better World

116 minutes

It's no secret that the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film is usually a missed opportunity - and in a year when the superb Of Gods and Men was outrageously ignored by the nominations, to give the award to the underachieving In a Better World (over the bewildering but intriguing Dogtooth, for instance) adds insult to injury. An undoubtedly proficient but anonymously tasteful family melodrama with a veneer of well-meaning but hopelessly naïf activism, it revolves around the uneasy friendship between two outcast kids in rural Denmark, both reeling from family shakeups: cosmopolitan Christian's (William Jøhnk Juels Nielsen) mum has just died, bullied Elias' (Markus Rygaard) parents are divorcing.
The kids' growingly dangerous games (posited as cries for help from conflicted, overwhelmed minds) are superimposed on Elias' dad Anton's (Mikael Persbrandt) experiences as a volunteer doctor in Sudan, but this becomes the weakest link in a hopelessly muddled plot that spreads itself too thin by wanting to say too many things at the same time, without actually ever finding out what it is it really wants to say. Had Susanne Bier and her screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen refrained from grafting the African plot superfluously onto what is already an overloaded family drama, In a Better World might have been more interesting; as it stands, though, it's a hopeless mess, wasting the solid performances and good production values.
© 2011 Jorge Mourinha. all rights reserved by the author

Starring Mikael Persbrandt, Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, William Jøhnk Juels Nielsen, Markus Rygaard.
Directed by Susanne Bier; produced by Sisse Graum Jørgensen; screenplay by Anders Thomas Jensen, from a story by ms. Bier and mr. Jensen; music by Johan Söderqvist; director of photography (Nordisk Film Shortcut, widescreen), Morten Søborg; production designer, Peter Grant; costume designer, Manon Rasmussen; film editors, Pernille Bech Christensen, Morten Egholm. 
A Zentropa Entertainments 16 presentation/production; in co-production with Memfis Film International, DR, Sveriges Television, Film i Väst, Trollhättan Film; with the support of the Danish Film Institute, Film Fyn, Nordisk Film & TV Fund, Swedish Film Institute, MEDIA Programme of the European Union. (Danish distributor, Nordisk Film. World sales, Trust Nordisk.)
Screened: distributor advance press screening, Castello Lopes screening room, Lisbon, March 15th 2011. 


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