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  Second Chance, A Be My Baby
Year: 2014
Director: Susanne Bier
Stars: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ulrich Thomsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Maria Bonnevie, Thomas Bo Larsen, Peter Haber, May Andersen, Ole Dupont, Molly Blixt Egelind, Bodil Jørgensen, Ewa Fröling, Charlotte Fich, Mal Nielsen, Roland Møller
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Andreas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is a Danish cop who could have well done without the news he received today, since Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) is out of prison and living in an apartment in Andreas’ jurisdiction. They have had a complaint about him and his girlfriend Sanne (May Andersen) already, so with his partner Simon (Ulrich Thomsen) they head over there with the policeman hoping he will have an excuse to put the troublemaker back behind bars, and on forcing their way in to interrupt a violent argument they discover evidence of mistreatment. Not Sanne, but the couple’s baby Sofus who is being kept in a wardrobe, filthy with his own excrement and generally in a bad way. But what if the authorities could find no concrete reason to take the child away?

You would be sceptical, wouldn’t you? Yet that was how A Second Chance began, with a plot device that strained credibility as no matter how liberal Denmark likes to think itself, there would be no way an infant left in that condition would be abandoned to abusive parents. That was the theme, the parents and their various ways of visiting ill treatment on their offspring, and at first it looks as if Andreas is a model father to baby Alexander, who he has had with his wife Anna (Maria Bonnevie), but the point of director Susanne Bier’s drama was apparently to accuse all those watching, oh, you think you’re so good at looking after your kids, but I don’t think so – remove the beam from your own eye before complaining about the mote in someone else’s, basically. Which would be all very well if this had been convincing.

But even with a typically fine, committed performance in the lead from Game of Thrones star Coster-Waldau this was difficult to take seriously, particularly when the ostensibly sensible Andreas takes drastic action to ensure Sofus is brought up in a decent home and not subjected to the nightmare existence of being brought up by the criminal element. There seemed to be a grudge against any potential snobs out there who think they know best for you and your family, a railing against a perceived nanny state mindset that would have us come away thinking, yeah, that little boy was far better off growing up coated in shit when the alternative is to be away from his birth parents, which was a decision Bier didn’t make a great case for. Indeed, before long nobody is behaving rationally.

So were we asked to relate to characters who behaved like maniacs, or were we supposed to take a step back and coolly regard the scene of an impossible situation? Obviously any set of events where children are in jeopardy needs to be looked at very carefully, yet this was so histrionic, with a couple of twists that were convenient to the narrative and the points arising but were a big stretch for many to accept, that it didn’t appear to be seated in any kind of reality most viewers would recognise. This left you to appreciate how well the cast held it together, even if that did involve a high degree of yelling at one another which could trouble the patience if you were not well tuned to actors acting at the top of their voices.

It certainly looked like one of the Scandinavian crime dramas that had taken off across the globe in the twenty-first century, so if you wanted to approach it that way, as akin to a television drama that somehow wound up on the big screen, you could find it satisfying, though even then there was a lot of the lecture about the state of the world about it, nobody escaping Bier’s scathing reproach as far as the people under her microscope went. There was a thriller aspect, and you could try to sell it as such, but in the main it was the domestic dramas of two households – one impoverished, the other well-to-do – and how they intertwined once tragedy strikes and Andreas takes matters into his own hands that concerned us here. Some observers might be intrigued to see supermodel May Andersen in her debut acting role, and she didn’t embarrass herself, but the feeling there was a struggle with this script to make it credible when it was verging on the silly was rather difficult to shake. Music by Johan Söderqvist.

Aka: En chance til

[Entertainment One's DVD has no extras, a shame as it would be nice to hear the director explain herself, but sound and vision are fine.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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