Danish director Susanne Bier added Oscar winner to her resume in late February when “In a Better World” won Best Foreign Film just as it had at the Golden Globes.
The film won’t be opening in the US until April 1st, but it could not come at a more appropriate time given its subject matter.
The film follows the struggles of 10 year old Elias (Markus Rygaard) who is bullied constantly at his school.
Although the administration sees what is going on and his parents seek its help in putting an end to it, the teachers try to spin it by blaming Elias’ social struggles on the recent separation of his parents.
Elias’ father (Mikael Persbrandt) travels frequently to Africa where he works as a doctor in a refugee camp, leaving his son without the support he may need.
Luckily, for Elias, a new boy transfers to the school, Christian (William Johnk Nielson), who has recently moved to town following his mother’s death.
Christian stands up for Elias, but it isn’t until he threatens the bullies with a knife that they finally back off.
From there, Christian launches a plan to seek revenge on a man who had an altercation with Elias’ father. The film goes on to explore the ways in which people stand up for themselves and run society when authority figures can’t control what is going on.
The film escalates to some graphic and disturbing moments, but told through the eyes of the young boys it’s easy to see how people can be driven to snap back and stand up for themselves.
In the past few weeks the topic of bullying has been making headlines after a video surfaced of an Australian teen who is shown body slamming a bully who had provoked him moments earlier. While violent, many people are proclaiming the bullied teen who fought back to be a hero and within his rights to do so.
President Obama held a press conference on bullying earlier this month where he reacted to an 11 year old who hanged himself after being tormented at school. Obama said, “No family should have to go through what these families have gone through. No child should feel that alone.”
Susanne Bier paints a clear picture that transcends language and cultures to look at a reality so many children across the world are facing.
The young actors play their roles so genuinely, and the character of Christian in particular has such a mature yet volatile nature to him.
This well-made film is definitely Oscar worthy and something that Americans should see as it should spark some interesting and constructive discussions on bullying.