In A Better World (2011)



Critic Consensus: In a Better World is a sumptuous melodrama that tackles some rather difficult existential and human themes.

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Anton is a doctor who commutes between his home in an idyllic town in Denmark, and his work at an African refugee camp. In these two very different worlds, he and his family are faced with conflicts that lead them to difficult choices between revenge and forgiveness. Anton and his wife Marianne, who have two young sons, are separated and struggling with the possibility of divorce. Their older, ten-year-old son Elias is being bullied at school, until he is defended by Christian, a new boy who has just moved from London with his father, Claus. Christian‟s mother recently lost her battle with cancer, and Christian is greatly troubled by her death. Elias and Christian quickly form a strong bond, but when Christian involves Elias in a dangerous act of revenge with potentially tragic consequences, their friendship is tested and lives are put in danger. Ultimately, it is their parents who are left to help them come to terms with the complexity of human emotions, pain and empathy. -- (C) Sony Pictures Classics
R (for violent and disturbing content some involving preteens, and for language)
Art House & International , Drama
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Trine Dyrholm
as Marianne
Bodil Jørgensen
as Headmaster
Martin Buch
as Niels
Kim Bodnia
as Lars
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Critic Reviews for In A Better World

All Critics (117) | Top Critics (33)

True, the resolutions on offer seem conventionally pat, yet the tough questions stay with you in an absorbing drama which pushes the viewer's buttons with effective intelligence.

Full Review… | August 16, 2011
Time Out
Top Critic

Susanne Bier's latest meditation on grief and the boundaries of family -- which won this year's foreign-film Oscar -- is a tough piece of work, subtle in some ways, obvious in others, viscerally affecting throughout.

Full Review… | June 3, 2011
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

Simply put, this would be a better world if there were more films like In a Better World.

Full Review… | May 6, 2011
Detroit News
Top Critic

Despite some weaknesses as both a film and a parable, "In a Better World" is a potent provocation.

Full Review… | May 5, 2011
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

An ethically ambitious, morally thoughtful - and deeply vexing - drama about the fragility of civil order and the menace of the lawless.

April 29, 2011
Denver Post
Top Critic

Asks worthwhile questions about how fathers can best lead their sons, about the expectations placed on men by society and about their struggles with their inner violent impulses, which can lay so dormant and unnoticed, then, in a frightening rush, explode.

Full Review… | April 27, 2011
Miami Herald
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for In A Better World

A challenging meditation on how hurt-induced revenge and the intention of getting rid of a menace can overlap when someone looks for a motive to get even. It could have been much better, though, had it not moved its focus to a minor subject (in comparison) in the third act.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


Two boys attempt to define masculinity in response to their respective family dramas. This Danish film is oddly both ambitious and contained. Its plot centers around only two families, one wracked by divorce, the other by death, but as the two male children of these families mature, we see that they're struggling with deep and difficult questions. What constitutes "being a man?" What examples do fathers and mothers provide their kids? Where is the line between being a disciplinarian and being a child's friend? What are parents' roles in preventing violence? These are ambitious ethical questions the plot brings up, but as a result of the film's reach philosophically, the plot starts to suffer when each of the film's conflicts resolve too conveniently. Overall, this is a fine, ambitious, and interesting film until its pat conclusion.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Susanne Bier is one of the greatest directors ever. Simple as that. Her films deal with issues, but always with a fresh perspective. In A Better World has a young boy called Christian who has just lost his mother, return to Denmark. He joins a new school where he soon makes friends with a boy who is being bullied. Christian allows his anger to take hold, and events soon spiral out of control. The theme of bullying may seem like something best saved for after school specials, but Bier shows bullying in all its forms, from the playground, to grown ups, to African warlords. Questioning anger, revenge, and human rights, makes this a multi-layered film which is just begging for discussion. The performances are magnificent across the board and each character has a very well structured arc. With so much going on it would be easy for the film to trip over itself, but it never does. Touching, inspirational, and quite possibly life changing. In A Better World could honestly make the world a better place.

Luke Baldock
Luke Baldock

Super Reviewer

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