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In a Better World (Blu-ray Review)

26 Aug, 2011 By: Angelique Flores

Street 8/30/11
Sony Pictures
Box Office $1 million
$45.99 Blu-ray/DVD combo
Rated ‘R’ for violent and disturbing content, some involving preteens, and for language.
In Danish with English subtitles.
Stars Mikael Persbrandt, Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, Markus Rygaard, William Johnk Nielsen.

If Alejandro González Iñárritu were Danish, he might make a film like In a Better World. While the handheld camera cinematography style and intersecting story lines are reminiscent of González Iñárritu, director Susanne Bier (Things We Lost in the Fire, Brothers) still brings her own more direct storytelling style to this drama.

Set in Denmark, a seemingly unlikely friendship between two boys, Elias and Christian, develops after Christian moves into town. Christian and his father have just moved from London to Denmark with his grandmother. Christian is a troubled boy, grieving over his recently passed mother who has spent his life moving around the world because of his father’s work. He quickly makes friends with another troubled boy, Elias, an outcast who is bullied at school. Elias’ parents are separated, and his father, Anton, is absent much of the time, working in Africa as a doctor. Anton struggles with being away from his family, his possible divorce and the horrors he sees in Africa.

The two boys bond after Christian defends Elias from the school bully, whom Christian beats to a bloody mess. The two are happy, but Christian’s subversive behavior to use brutal violence to defend himself and people he cares about ends up with Elias in the hospital.

In a Better World is a stirring and at times heartbreaking film, in which violence sometimes doesn’t seem like a bad option after all in some cases. Christian seems to be at a crossroads where he could have easily joined the bully and his ring of tormenters or remained friends with the good boy Elias. And Elias could’ve have had his own issues had he not found a friend.

The film has a rich complexity, carefully exposing with so much emotion the moving stories of not just the boys but of their parents. In many scenes, the dialogue is sparse, with the talented cast conveying so much in their eyes.

It’s no surprise this beautiful and touching Danish film won international accolades, bringing home both the Oscar and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign-Language Film.

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