IN A BETTER WORLD, the Foreign Language Oscar winner from Denmark, is a tale of bullying, revenge and justice. The story begins in Africa, where Anton, a doctor, works part-time helping poor refugees. Anton learns about an evil warlord who cuts open the stomachs of pregnant women to win bets on what sex the baby is. Back home in Denmark, bullies pick on Anton’s 10-year-old son, Elias. Elias is defended by Christian, a new boy who’s still angry about his mother’s recent death from cancer. Elias and Christian form a strong bond, but Christian involves Elias in a dangerous act of revenge when Anton refuses to fight an adult bully. Meanwhile, during another trip to Africa, Anton is forced to confront the evil African warlord.
IN A BETTER WORLD takes a hot liberal topic – bullying – and turns it into a powerful story about human nature when it’s confronted by human evil, brutal violence and revenge. The movie presents some redemptive answers but also shows that justice carried out by humans is seldom perfect. There’s plenty of strong foul language and some gruesome images of violence, so extreme caution is warranted.
(C, BB, LLL, VVV, S, N, A, D, M) Light redemptive worldview presents a thoughtful, strongly moral, redemptive look at bullying, violence, revenge, justice, and forgiveness, including a brief scene at a Christian funeral; 25 obscenities (including 12 “f” words) and one strong profanity; some extreme images of bloody wounds on people in Africa (including women who undergo surgery after their babies have been ripped from their bellies) and strong violence such as a mostly implied execution scene by being beaten, pipe bomb goes off, boy gets injured trying to save a mother and her daughter, young bully threatened with knife, school bullies have punctured other children’s bicycle tires, boy plots revenge with his friend, threats, and some fighting; implied sex between estranged married couple; upper male nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, revenge, vigilante justice occurs in one scene, but it’s carried out in a biblical manner by the victims of the murderous violence, boy angry at father for mother’s untimely death but he’s confused, boys cover up rule-breaking, lying, woman gets angry at boy for involving her son in a very foolish act but the relationship is healed later, and married couple are separated but man wants to get back together with his wife.
IN A BETTER WORLD, the Foreign Language Oscar winner from Denmark, is a tale of bullying and revenge that says some profound things about the human condition. It’s clear why it won that Oscar, though it’s not quite as good or powerful a drama as the previous winner from Japan, DEPARTURES. Even so, like the other winner, it has some strong redemptive themes that mature media-wise audiences should find very appealing. There are some very graphic images of wounds, however, some disturbing behavior by young boys and plenty of strong foul language, so extreme caution is advised.
The story begins in Africa, where Anton, a doctor, works part-time as a surgeon and general practitioner for poor refugees living in a tent city. There, Anton learns about an evil warlord who cuts open the stomachs of pregnant women to win bets on what sex the baby is.
Back home in Denmark, bullies pick on Anton’s 10-year-old son, Elias. Elias is defended by Christian, a new boy who’s still very angry about his mother’s recent death from cancer.
Elias and Christian form a strong bond, but Christian involves Elias in a dangerous act of revenge when Anton, back in Denmark, refuses to stand up to an adult bully. Meanwhile, during one of his trips to Africa, Anton is forced to question his own pacifism, not to mention his oath as a doctor, when the evil African warlord shows up with a life-threatening leg wound.
IN A BETTER WORLD takes a hot liberal topic – bullying – and turns it into a thoughtful, emotionally powerful story about human nature when it’s confronted with true human evil, brutal violence, revenge, and modern civilization’s ideas about justice. Ultimately, it’s a very redemptive, but provocative, movie that provides some redemptive answers to the moral dilemmas it raises. At the same time, the filmmakers aren’t afraid to include more ambiguous content that makes viewers think more carefully about what to do when confronted by true evil, arrogance and brutality. In the end, Christian learns that it’s possible to go too far while Anton learns that, sometimes, justice demands a violent, albeit imperfect and unsettling, punishment for unrepentant people who keep committing really horrible, truly evil acts. The movie also shows that the pacifist answers modern civilization tends to give don’t necessarily help either the bully or his victims. Another good thing about IN A BETTER WORLD is positive parental role models. Anton is especially admirable.
MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for some strong foul language and some gruesome scenes of violence in Africa. Also, Christian’s angry solutions to bullies are disturbing, though he eventually is taught better ways to deal with his feelings.
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