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aka - Chance Til, En
Denmark/Sweden 2014
Directed by
Suzanne Bier
102 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Second Chance, A

Suzanne Bier is well-known for her emotionally-charged films. Most of them, such as After The Wedding (2006) and In A Better World (2010) work brilliantly. Occasionally they fall flat as with her 2007 English-language dud, Things We Lost In The Fire. A Second Chance which was made before her uncharacteristic but surprisingly good 2014 English-language Depression-era drama, Serena, belongs with the first group.

It is somewhat of a misnomer to call Bier's film a thriller as the emphasis is more on character than action but it is a compelling film, engaging us not simply in terms of plot and it moral conflicts but in meta-level questions of how Bier will maintain the psychological realism that is critical to its credibility.

Re-teaming with her In a Better World co-writer, Anders Thomas Jensen, Bier spends the first half-hour setting up the opposition between on the one hand comfortable middle-class couple Andreas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a police officer, and his beautiful wife, Anna (Maria Bonnevie), with their much-loved  new-born, Alexander,and, on the other hand, a violent ex-con and junkie, Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and his skanky girlfriend, Sanne (Lykke May Andersen), and their badly neglected neo-nate, Sofus. 

When Alexander dies apparently of SIDS and Anna threatens suicide, in desperation Andreas switches the babies, justifying his act morally as a kind of a-life-for-a-life reparation. What he fails to anticipate however is that both women want their own babies back, dead or alive. What follows is the unravelling of Andreas’s plan, as unexpectedly Sanne's maternal instinct is every bit as strong as Anna's..

The interest in Bier’s film is less the mechanics of the plot, though a twist at the end is very effective, than in how she makes that plot credible psychologically. This she achieves through strong characterisation effectively delivered by the committed cast. Bonnevie is particularly good here in portraying the response of the grieving mother and although Andersen, a fashion model making her debut screen appearance, has a smaller part, she too convinces. Kaas is frightening as her drug-addled boyfriend whilst Coster-Waldau is effective as the catalyst  whose.attempts to save the situation leads him into a morally and circumstantially untenable situation.

As with so many of Bier’s films, A Second Chance explores the pain that lurks beneath the surface of bourgeois normality (there is an allusion to the estranged relations between Anna and her wealthy, high-achieving parents). Despite a questionably reassuring coda, It is a strong film subtly scored by Johan Söderqvist and evocatively photographed by Michael Snyman. If you like the rather tragic sensibility of Scandinavian films, you should be well-pleased with this.

FYI: Thomsen and Kaas played the siblings in Bier’s 2004 film, Brothers.




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