In a better world, we might all have fathers like Anton. Yes he's estranged from his wife, partly due to his long absences – he's a missionary doctor in Africa – and also because he had a brief affair, but it's the unwavering, unguarded love he has and exhibits for his two young sons which makes him a rarity in films, if not the real world.
Anton also attempts to reach out to Christian (William Johnk Nielsen), the new friend of his eldest boy, Elias (Markus Rygaard), whom Christian comes to the aid of (somewhat OTT) against the school bully. Christian is mourning the recent death of his mother. Compounded by his removal from their London home to his grandmother's in Denmark, and his insufficiently grief-stricken father, Christian's grief is slowly but steadily morphing into a rage which threatens not only himself but the lives of Elias and others.
Danish director Susanne Bier's film, recent winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, isn't so naïve as to suggest that all we need is love to live in a perfect world. Sometimes love just ain't enough. In A Better World examines how unchecked emotions – anger, grief – can find expression in dangerous forms, and how love – understanding, compassion – if administered appropriately can go along way in negating the negative.
Bier, and co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen, may not always succeed in their analogies between the local and the universal – Anton's situation in Africa with a gunrunner who cuts open the local pregnant women for sport, is an example of bullying in extremis; today's schoolyard bully is tomorrow's dictator? – but the emotional core of the film never feels less than real.