In a Better World (aka Hævnen) review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
The Oscar winner for best foreign film In a Better World (Haevnen) is a Dutch movie by director Susanne Bier. It is the story of two men, Anton and Claus. Anton (Mikael Persbrandt) is a doctor at an African refugee camp whose marriage is on the rocks; whilst Claus (Ulrich Thomsen) is a recently widowed businessman who finds his son Christian is unable to deal with the loss of his mother and becomes angry and isolated. At school Christian befriends another boy Elias who happens to be Anton’s son.
Elias too is troubled, and is badly bullied at school, his new friendship with Christian leads to a rather upsetting act of vengeance against the bullies.
Through the film Anton and Claus find that their lives, although only loosely connected, follow a similar pattern, their individual experiences creating a mutual symmetry that Bier presents beautifully on screen. The movie is strangely uplifting yet simultaneously troubling; where Christian and Elias succeed in standing up to their bullying classmate; their fathers find themselves faced with similar problems that are far more complex and harder to unravel in the adult world.
The film is excellently made and the acting is terrific, however the plot is a little predictable and you can’t help but feel forcibly manipulated by the narrative rather than genuinely moved.