A Second Chance

 

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Susanne Bier juggles a number of improbable narrative balls in this gripping, credible and irresistible thriller.

 

Second Chance, A

Moral uncertainty: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

   

Andreas Juhl is a tough Danish cop with a strong moral centre. Tristan is a gun-toting heroin addict who beats up his girlfriend. We know that the Scandinavians make the best police procedurals and this one doesn’t disappoint. The difference here is that both the cop (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and the baddie (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) are fathers of newborn children. When Andreas and his washed-up partner Simon (Ulrich Thomsen) are called on to investigate a domestic disturbance at Tristan’s flat, they uncover a hellhole. Worse, they find a shivering baby hidden in a closet, cloaked in its own urine and excrement. Of course, life isn’t fair and so Andreas makes a rash executive decision that, in the heat of the moment, seems to make sense.

 

Andreas is a can-do sort of guy, who’s there for his partner (who is suffering from a horrendous divorce), his fragile wife Anna (Maria Bonnevie) and his own baby boy who needs constant nocturnal care. Somehow, Andreas juggles all these balls and survives on surprisingly little sleep. And then there’s Tristan’s girlfriend, Sanne (Lykke May Andersen), the mother of the psycho’s own little boy, Sofus. Sanne lives in squalor and takes Tristan’s beatings lying down, but she’s still a mother and with all the instincts that biology affords her. Initially, Andreas’s solution to an impossible dilemma seems to be a perfect answer and is borne out of altruism. But an altruistic crime is still a crime…

 

Of course, Andreas’s act of humanity seems too perfect to be true. But the director Susanne Bier and her scripter Anders Thomas Jensen are not in the business of making pat dramas. Bier, whose films include the award-winning Open Hearts, Brothers and In a Better World, has a knack for making the unlikely seem credible. Even if Andreas is too handsome for his own good, in the hands of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau he is a plausible husband and cop. Indeed, everything is handsome about A Second Chance, even though its subject matter is anything but. Sanne herself, with her lank hair and drug-addled, shrunken features, is played by the former Victoria's Secret model May Andersen, in her film debut. It takes a director of Bier’s skill to solicit such convincing performances from the unschooled – and to keep the unexpected curve balls of the plot entirely believable.

 

Original title: En chance til.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ulrich Thomsen, Maria Bonnevie, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lykke May Andersen, Bodil Jørgensen.

 

Dir Susanne Bier, Pro Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Screenplay Anders Thomas Jensen, Ph Michael Keith Snyman, Art Dir Gilles Balabaud, Louise Lönborg and Jacob Stig Olsson, Ed Pernille Bech Christensen, Music Johan Söderqvist, Costumes Signe Sejlund.

 

Zentropa/Danmarks Radio/Det Danske Filminstitut/Film Fyn/Film i Väst-Hammingden Pictures.

101 mins. 2014. Denmark/Sweden. Rel: 20 March 2015. Cert. 15.