A Second Chance Review

A Second Chance

Ah, you can’t beat a gritty Scandinavian drama.

Over the last decade crime dramas in particular have been a welcome export from that corner of the world.

You would be forgiven for presuming that Susanne Bier’s latest work, A Second Chance, falls into the same category.

The film initially appears have all the trappings of a crime story, especially given the occupation of central character Andreas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), but it quickly becomes clear that this is tale about relationships and family.

Andreas is a Danish cop whose seemingly blissful home life is in stark contrast with his job.

We first see him enjoying some tranquil time at home with his infant child, followed by a scene of him and his partner busting into the flat of a drug addict called Tristan.

Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kass) is an unpleasant sort, a heroin junkie with a tyre-track haircut and a habit of beating up his girlfriend (played by former model Lykke May Andersen in her acting debut).

At the flat, Andreas discovers a baby belonging to the couple, shivering and covered in its own faeces. As a father first and human being second, this affects him greatly. To his dismay, Tristan escapes prosecution post-arrest and retains custody of his child.

Meanwhile, we snatch further glimpses of Andreas’ off-duty persona, sharing time with him, his son Alexander and his wife Anne (Maria Bonnevie).

At this point, the film seems to be setting itself up as a docudrama about contrasts in parenting across the socioeconomic divide.

But, in short, it aint.

If you are really looking for it, you may soon guess where the story is headed.

But even then, you may not guess the two or three twists further down the line.

Having said all that, for all its twists and thrills this is not just some sort of twisty-thriller. Instead, the film is more of a character-driven meditation over relationships and love, both between partners and between parents and their children.

The film is beautifully shot by Michael Keith Snyman, the handheld style nicely complementing the film’s realism, and the on-location shots of Denmark are suitably haunting.

After the Italian-based exploits of Love is All You Need, director Susanne Bier returns to Denmark for this story. And with fourteen features under her belt to date, it is no surprise that she manages to coax such powerful performances from her main cast.

Despite the aforementioned twists and compelling storyline, these performances are what really make the movie.

Waldau, familiar to most as the devious Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones, shows a more tender side here as a father who finds himself doing the unthinkable, and making it all seem in some way relatable.

Bonnevie is convincing as a woman whose issues and fears around motherhood vie desperately with her maternal instincts, whilst Andersen offers a remarkable debut.

But Kass is particularly strong, turning a potentially one-dimensional lowlife into something a bit more rounded, whilst remaining a strong moral counterpoint to Andreas and his actions.

A solid character-driven piece which will resonate long after the credits, with enough thrills to keep even those with a lower attention span engaged.

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

August 2015