Sunday 12 October 2014

A Second Chance (2014) – Susanne Bier

A Second Chance (a.k.a En Chance Til), a Danish thriller from Susanne Bier, is beautifully shot.  Its central couple live in the Danish countryside, their home surrounded by a picturesque lake and dark forests, the windows covered in Christmas fairylights.  This is no fairytale however.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (best known as Jamie Lannister from Game of Thrones) plays Andreas, a cop whose perfect life with his wife and newborn baby son is juxtaposed with that of a junkie couple who keep their son of the same age, soiled and neglected, in a cupboard.  When his own child dies unexpectedly of cot death, he switches the children.  It’s “the perfect crime” – that is, until he is forced to investigate the child’s death himself.

Suddenly those beautiful landscapes turn to haunting, noir shadows.

Bier’s unflinching camera peers into the minds of each character through extreme close-up, questioning their morality.  Is Andreas mad for swapping the babies?  Or is his wife mad for threatening to kill herself at the death of her own son?  And which couple are the more deserving parents: those with the money and comfortable lifestyle, or those connected by flesh and blood?  The narrative may seem a little contrived and misogynistic towards its female characters, but the film remains consistently tense.

Coster-Waldau offers an emotive and convincing performance as the conflicted cop, whilst Maria Bonnevie is unnerving as his hysterical wife Anne.  A Second Chance is a grim depiction of Nordic melancholy, domestic abuse and the struggles of parenthood wrapped up in a stylish thriller that’s daring and gripping from start to finish.

Also stay for the credits to hear the excellent Grown Up by Emilie Nicolas.


Watch: A Second Chance screens at the London Film Festival and is released in Denmark in January 2015.