Star Rating:

A Second Chance

Director: Susanne Bier

Actors: Maria Bonnevie, May Anderson, Nikolaj Lie Kaas

Release Date: Friday 20th March 2015

Genre(s): Drama

Running time: 102 minutes

It has a naff title, it can be accused of being contrived, and it disappointingly loses the courage to follow through on the controversial themes, but A Second Chance is a riveting and difficult drama.

Andreas (Coster-Waldau) is a tough detective dealing daily with ne’er do wells like ex-con Tristan (Lie-Kaas). In a routine check on his rundown apartment, Andreas finds a crying baby hungry and lying in its own filth. Despite pleas from its beaten mother (Anderson), Andreas lobbies social services to have the baby taken, aware that the animalistic Tristan will more than likely kill the child or its mother. But when his own baby boy suffers Infant Death Syndrome, a shaken Andreas slinks into Tristan’s apartment and swaps his dead boy for Tristan’s maltreated one and takes him home…

To say more would do the film a disservice. Susanne Bier’s return to her native tongue after some English-speaking missteps that stopped short of the films they could have been (Things We Lost In The Fire, Serena) sees her deliver her best film since 2004’s Brothers. This is a morally complex drama that not only asks challenging questions but offers up ugly answers. Who deserves to have children? Does one end of social spectrum deserve offspring more than others? Should some people procreate?

What Bier asks is that we understand the actions of those involved. The desperate Andreas’ actions are reprehensible but, taking in his state of mind, the horror of losing a child, and that his wife (Maria Bonnevie) has threatened suicide, what he does is understandable. The film puts the audience in an awkward situation where every out is an unpleasant one. Events are predictable, yes, but this actually works in the film’s favour. Bier understands the audience knows what’s coming and uses that to ramp up the anticipation, not unlike the way a horror director has the girl go into the basement.

Coster-Waldau is too pretty and too soft to pass for a tough Sweeny-esque detective but comes through when asked to be that desperate and unhinged father and husband in the film’s more tender moments. Nikolaj Lie-Kaas and May Anderson are wonderfully cast as believable junkies.