In a Better World (‘Hævnen’)

DRAMA; 1hr 58min (Danish with subtitles)

STARRING: Mikael Persbrandt, Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, Markus Rygaard, William Jøhnk Nielsen

Struggling to relate: Persbrandt and Dyrholm

Elias (Rygaard) and Christian (Nielsen) bond in adversity with ugly results. Both boys come from broken situations — 12-year-old Elias’s doctor parents (Persbrandt and Dyrholm as Anton and Marianne) are separated, and Christian’s mother has died of cancer. The boys respond to each other as outsiders, although unlike Elias, who is close to his nurturing dad, Christian resents his father (Thomsen) and has sealed his emotions after his mother’s death. He’s angry and dangerous, and when he concocts a crazy payback scheme, the fundamentally gentle Elias, grateful to have a friend and unable to communicate with the absent Anton, rashly goes along with it.


Further illustrating the futility of violence as currency, Danish director Susanne Bier (Things We Lost in the Fire) intersperses the boys’ undoing with Anton’s shocking work experiences in Africa. For all her delicacy and care, the intensity is necessarily confronting. But then come the grace notes, reaffirming the possible when everything has so nearly been lost.