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Generally favorable reviews - based on 29 Critics What's this?

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7.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 32 Ratings

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  • Summary: 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. (Sony Pictures Classics)
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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 29
  2. Negative: 1 out of 29
  1. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Mar 31, 2011
    90
    One of the places where In a Better World is especially successful is comparing and contrasting the moral worlds of children and adults, showing how difficult but essential it is for each group to learn from the other.
  2. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Apr 29, 2011
    83
    The acting is superb across the board, and the film moves dreamily yet with razor-sharp precision, building to a sequence of deeply felt climaxes.
  3. Reviewed by: Steve Ramos
    Mar 28, 2011
    80
    An artistically mature work with pitch perfect performances.
  4. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Mar 31, 2011
    75
    An emotional powerhouse.
  5. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Mar 29, 2011
    67
    Bier has done far more compelling work before, but the globe-spanning, life-affirming, morally upright trajectory of her latest accomplishment weakens its quality while sustaining its popularity. In a Better World is heavy, but it's also heavy-handed.
  6. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Apr 16, 2011
    63
    There are two strong stories here, in Africa and Denmark. Either could have made a film. Intercut in this way, they seem too much like self-conscious parables.
  7. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Apr 14, 2011
    38
    The movie is swept up in earnest self-importance.

See all 29 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 9
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 9
  3. Negative: 0 out of 9
  1. Apr 1, 2011
    10
    I enjoy watching this film, it was amazing story. violence, friendship, love, happiness. great actors, this movie is such Oscar worthy! I love European movies! Expand
  2. Jan 17, 2012
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Just a great film. Emotional, dramatic story about two different worlds (Denmark and Africa) and how violence exists in both of them. Great performances, great cinematography, well deserved Oscar (best foreign 2011). One thing that confuses me is the difference between the original title meaning revenge, and the English one. The later makes more sense and gives depth to the story as it opens a different perspective from the obvious one. With it in mind I thought of the movie as a fairy-tale of sort happening in a better world than the one we live in. No matter the dramatic events the film ends with a surprising happy end (just like in a Hollywood movie some would say, hence the Oscar win). In our harsh reality i'm sure the doctor would've been slayed by the warlord when he made demands on him. I mean these are people that butcher pregnant women for fun. Elias would've died - he was just so close to the car when it exploded, Christian would've jumped from the silos roof (cause there wouldn't be Elias's dad, the doc, to save him). Expand
  3. Apr 6, 2011
    9
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Truly an excellent film which deals with so many important issues (bullying, a child's reaction to a parent's death, infidelity, tribal feuds, medical ethics) in such an artful way. The young male actors are terrific, and all three parents play their roles with such skill and compassion. The visuals in this movie are also outstanding. Several shots took my breath away. Expand
  4. Aug 20, 2011
    9
    This is beautifully shot film full of talented actors. The core of the story is about revenge: that act of a man which is highly valued in tribal societies but can be also seen as an universal way of coping with rage and honor. Even in so called better world, in quite safe Denmark, sometimes you d think the easiest way is to answer violence with violence, to injustice with injustice. This film can be also seen as essay on masculinity considering the physical power and the ideals of a man as a protector. There are cultures which are focused to maintain a man ´s honor in showing aggression and, in the other hand, there are also cultures which embrace self-confidence and controlling one ´s anger as a sign of strength and high social status. As you can see, individuals raised in those two cultures grown up to be totally different in the way they see the world. And when those cultures face each other there are some questions you should ask: how far you can go with your pacifism in a culture that doesn ´t appreciate that kind of response but see it as a sign of losing ones honor and sometimes, losing one s life? How a man, who has been taught to control his weakness trough destructive behavior which initially leads to the complete destruction of his manhood and humanity, can be seen in a western culture which at least on some level appreciate very much the idea of all men being equal? Are those cultures and societies that emprace that kind of destructive behavior also equal? To put it anohter way: Why should you save the life of a mass murderer? We are living in the time of globalisation and people are truly dealing with those questions when meeting people with different world views and moral responses -it is not just a matter of individual free choice between fear and love, but most importantly: how our children should be raised in this world in order to make it better? How we embrace the culture that makes it easier to forgive, to face one ´s weaknesses and feel empathy to one another? This movie asks hard question and to in order to be able to answer those questions you have to put down your weapons and face your fear, and face the death. If that means to you the same thing as surrending, then you are in the middle of loosing it. Expand
  5. Jul 5, 2011
    8
    In a better world they would make more movies like this one. A thought provoking film, provides no answers, let alone easy ones. Deservedly nominated for best foreign film at the Oscars and although it was not my favourite pick of the final five, it eventually went to win the statuette. Expand
  6. Nov 30, 2013
    8
    I'm quite baffled by some of the critics' negative reviews. It would help so much if they gave reasons/examples of why they dislike the movie, but it seems to be not forthcoming. For god's sake, the movie won an Oscar. What is it that you get but I don't. Expand
  7. May 15, 2011
    6
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Jorgen Lennart Hannson(Rolf Lassgard) is a man accustomed to getting his own way, and in "Efter bryllupet", the business magnate can hardly believe his own ears when Jacob Pedersen(Mads Mikkelsen), a Danish-expatriate who runs a cash-strapped orphanage in India, initially refuses to abide by the wish of a dying man. "Do I have to live on the other side of the world to get your help?" cries Jorgen, beseeching the good samaritan to remain in Denmark, so he can look after the billionaire's family, which includes Jacob's just-married biological daughter Ida, the all-too-human end-result of a pregnancy that Helene had kept hidden for twenty years from her former lover. This filmmaker, collaborating with the same screenwriter on all of her projects to date, seems to be preoccupied with humanitarians and how their working abroad effects the people they leave behind on the homefront, as a byproduct to her primary interest, which is the discomfiture that exists between a good person's ideals and the natural forces of reality. In "Broden", a soldier affiliated with the International Security Assistance Force(an organization designed to keep the peace in Afghanistan), is assigned the job of protecting Kabul from the Taliban, and in the process, risks the possibility of never seeing the people who truly need him for non-cooperating Muslims resentful of any outside intervention. Time and time again, the filmmaker shows the inherent paradox in humanitarianism, by which making needy third world denizens the altruistic person's first priority is in fact, a sort of selfishness, because the public-spirited person makes himself inaccessible to loved ones. Jacob is more concerned with the welfare of an Indian boy, Pramod, than his own child, who's about to lose the only father she has ever known. And here, in the filmmaker's latest, "Haeven", the same question posed to Jacob is asked by the moviegoer, when Elias(Markus Rygaard), seeking advice via the Internet, doesn't receive any potential life-saving guidance from his absentee father(Mikael Peresbrandt), a doctor in Sudan, on the eve of a potential tragedy, due to a bad connection. Despite being a Lars Von Trier protege(her "Elsker dig for evigt" was a Dogme film), this filmmaker is no emotional sadist, but emotions do run high in her somewhat overwrought melodramas. Regardless of her humanity, like Von Trier, she does, nevertheless, punish her protagonists to a certain extent, but comparatively speaking, it's a slap on the wrist compared to what her mentor puts his characters through. Although Elias faces life-threatening injuries from a successful bomb, the boy recuperates, sparing Anton, whom the film chastises for straying from his non-violent belief system, from further irrevocable consequences. Previously, back in Denmark, the Swedish doctor had refused to be goaded into fistacuffs with a racist mechanic, choosing instead to absorb slap after slap in the Dane's garage as a lesson in turning the other cheek(a teaching from the Bible), for the benefit of Elias and his pointedly named friend Christian(William Johnk Nielsen). Soon after returning to Sudan, Anton's pacifism gets a major test, when his refugee camp is visited by a notorious warlord seeking treatment for a badly mutilated leg. Practicing what he preaches, the principled doctor takes him on as a patient, even though the autocrat has a long-standing history of violence against pregnant women. Jesus' teachings, however, are lessons in impotence , Anton soon comes to realize, and allows for a retributive mob to descend on the African boss, which for the doctor, is a personal(and professional) sin. Unlike Selma(Bjork), who in Von Trier's "Dancer in the Dark", is sentenced to hang after bashing her neighbor's head with a safe deposit box, this compassionate filmmaker doesn't carry out the fundamentalist principalities of "an eye for an eye" to its final solution. As a result, Elias wakes up from his coma, which for some cineasts, is a denouement better suited for Hollywood than the art house, and moreover, "Haeven" grants Anton the opportunity to rescind his near-fatal transgression away in its totality, when he thwarts Christian's suicide attempt from atop a silo. Similarly, in "Broden", there's no corresponding death for the comrade-in-arms that Michael(Ulrich Thomsen) murders in Afghanistan, even though the filmmaker broaches the irony of a peacekeeper who can't even keep the peace in a domestic situation. For a film steeped in biblical subtext("thou shalt not covet thy [brother's] wife"), a Cain and Abel-like ending would only be suitable, but the filmmaker never fully embraces the intactness of tragedy like Von Trier and another Dogme alumnus, Thomas Vinterberg. She has a weakness for the happy ending. "In a Better World" is yet another taut melodrama that holds back the tears, but still I love Susanne Bier, a beautiful filmmaker with smarts and integrity. Expand

See all 9 User Reviews