sat 24/02/2024

A Second Chance | reviews, news & interviews

A Second Chance

A Second Chance

Domestic drama from Danish director Susanne Bier with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

A good man pushed to his limits: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is sorely tested in 'A Second Chance'

Susanne Bier follows the disappointing Serena with a well-acted and worthy drama that confronts societal prejudice, the sticky issues around child protection, and our inability to see what's right under our noses. Despite the plot's predictable and manipulative machinations, A Second Chance is rendered compelling every step of the way by Bier's searching direction and a mesmerising lead performance from Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

Coster-Waldau plays Andreas, a police officer working in rural Denmark who seems like the epitome of a good man. He's a new father and the devoted husband of Anna (Maria Bonnevie), and what a handsome couple they make! During a call-out, Andreas and his troubled partner Simon (Ulrich Thomsen) find a baby covered in its own filth in the flat of Andreas' old criminal adversary, Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas, pictured below right with May Andersen); appalled, they quickly remove the child.

Despite the squalid, drug-fuelled set-up and Tristan's violent temper the baby is found to be healthy and without injuries and is returned to her mother Sanne (Andersen), a woman seemingly doing her best in desperately precarious circumstances. Then, when tragedy strikes at home, Andreas makes a horrendous, life-shattering decision.

Bier's film plays with the judgmental but commonplace notion that, "some people shouldn't be allowed children". It's occasionally undone by its own good intentions, seeming over-earnest, and is well signposted, so if you're a shrewd spotter of cinematic clues the big picture will be apparent from early on. Andreas and Anna's idyllic river-side existence is so absurdly rose-tinted in comparison to the squalor of Tristan and Sanne's situation that it could only ever be a facade. It's also unfortunate – or perhaps the filmmakers were fully aware – that a similar storyline had fairly recently run in EastEnders, which somewhat undermines A Second Chance's cinematic ambitions.

Although he has an important narrative function, Andreas' partner Simon is sidelined as a character, with his back-story merely glimpsed (his family have left him and he's prone to getting into drunken trouble at strip joints). Furthermore, his relationship with Andreas is so underdeveloped that his eventual piecing together of the full picture has little to no impact.

The charismatic actor delivers a performance of intricacy, anguish and commitment

Yet Bier and debut cinematographer Michael Snyman show great sensitivity to Andreas' plight, while the performers make the concept seem credible and stand up to the scrutiny of the interrogative filmmaking style. In fact, it's perfectly cast throughout, with the ever-excellent Kaas impressing in a relatively small role, Bonnevie showing a good grasp of a tricky character arc, and Andersen striking and heartrending in her acting debut. But it's Coster-Waldau's film and the charismatic actor delivers a performance of intricacy, anguish and commitment; it's easy to see why this increasingly prominent actor was drawn to a part that provides an excellent platform for his talent.

A Second Chance acts as a timely reminder for a society that's becoming hardened to hardship, whose media and politicians rush to quick, ignorant judgements. Whatever its flaws, this melodrama is genuinely affecting, with a message that's undeniably on point.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for A Second Chance

It acts as a timely reminder for a society that's becoming hardened to hardship


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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