| The 2011 Oscar and Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Language Film represents the fourth collaboration of director Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen. Their previous films are "Open Hearts," "Brothers" and "After the Wedding."
The lives of two families become intertwined when two very different 12-year-old boys form a friendship. Elias (Markus Rygaard) is the oldest son of Anton (Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt from "Everlasting Moments") and Marianne (Danish actress Trine Dyrholm). His Swedish-born parents are separated and living apart. Anton is a doctor who commutes between Denmark and an African refugee camp in Kenya. Marianne is a physician on staff at the local hospital.
Christian (William Johnk Nielsen) is troubled and grief-stricken by the recent death of his mother from cancer. He is resentful of his often-absent father Claus (Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen from "The Inheritance" and "Brothers"). He becomes the new boy at school after moving from London to live with his paternal grandmother in Denmark.
Christian sits next to Elias in class and they become friends, ironically having the same birth date in common. They form an alliance and retaliate against a school bully.
Anton faces violence while trying to save the lives of women tortured by an evil warlord. He comes face-to-face with the vicious and cruel militant leader, who comes to him for medical services.
The movie succeeds as a character study and turns into a moralistic fable about right and wrong. Emotional pain, retribution, forgiveness and reconciliation are some of the themes running through the various dramatic storylines. The film's original Danish title "Haevnen" means "revenge" when translated into English. The astutely written screenplay and masterfully executed direction goes back and forth between Denmark and Africa to create a parallel between two different worlds.
Acting laurels belong to Nielsen and Rygaard, who are both making their screen debuts. Persbrandt stands out among the adults with a very emotional performance. He shows fathers how to teach their sons the best way to resolve disputes.
The outstanding cinematography gives the film a distinctive look. There is quite a contrast between the scenes shot in Kenya and the various hamlets in Denmark.
The movie initially opened in Scandinavian countries and worldwide exposure followed from inclusion on the program of various film festivals including Toronto, Rio, Rome, Seville and Sundance. The dialogue is partially in Danish and Swedish with English subtitles.
Opening at the Glenwood Red Bridge, AMC Town Center 20 and the Tivoli in Westport.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"