Cineuropa Reviews ‘A Second Chance’
“How far can ordinary people go when tragedy knocks on their door, creeps into their living room and moves into their bedroom?”, asks Oscar-winning Danish director Susanne Bier alongside her regular screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen (Love Is All You Need [+], In A Better World [+]) with this new movie – the artistic team came to present it at the San Sebastian Film Festival, the most TV-friendly of them (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) caused a wave of cries, gasps, compliments and an infinite demand for selfies. But viewers could question the filmmakers: To what extent do you have to make the characters suffer and cause the audience to cry? Where is the limit between an unbridled melodrama and a sensational soap opera? When does a movie cease to be emotional and sensitive and turn instead into a terrible tear-jerker?
A Second Chance [+] addresses this burning debate. Because what happens to her characters is, at the very least, terrible. They are the aforementioned Coster-Waldau, a handsome actor who, suffice it to say, plays a policeman, married to a girl who couldn’t be more beautiful (Maria Bonnevie). They both live in a wonderful house in an extraordinarily beautiful place. The decoration, the lighting and clothing assist in making them seem like angels in a paradise on earth because behind their enormous picture windows it’s – quite – cold. They even have a cute and chubby little baby: they’re the perfect family, like those that appear in modern lifestyle magazines. However, one day he meets a junky couple who have a child very similar to their own, except, of course, in completely opposing circumstances. And that’s as far as you can read…
Because Bier then offers a show bursting with pain in which the script’s twists and turns gradually plunge its characters into a whirlwind of moral dilemma, anxiety and suffering which, this time, does exceed reality or, at least, could make the headlines or the story in a news programme. The director tries, in spite of that, not to emphasize that suffering by falling back on affected shots and by not adding emphasis with the music, but the viewer cannot fail to be surprised by this warped drama which could be interesting if we read it as a criticism of the middle class, those who feel that they have the absolute right to dominate over those who don’t share their lifestyle or who live on the wildside: the usual story of a perfect monster that lurks behind a pristine facade.
But that would be another movie, because Bier prefers to take a gamble on redemption, that endemic evil of contemporary movie screenplays which is bent on the forgiveness and salvation of its characters in order to thus achieve politically correct endings that leave a nice taste in the audience’s mouth, despite the emotional barbarities and treatment which it was exposed to during the previous hour and a half.
(Translated from Spanish)