A Second Chance
Though Oscar-winning writer/director Susanne Bier has previously grappled with controversial issues, as in 2010’s In A Better World, her latest effort with co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen, A Second Chance, covers entirely new ground. It invokes her most polemical question yet: is parenthood a moral right?
As with David Fincher’s latest work, Gone Girl, the film centres upon the difficult marriage between “average Joe” and potentially psychotic wife. It has a plot so rupturous and unpredictable that it becomes difficult to explain even the premise of the film without spoiling key aspects; perhaps the best experience of A Second Chance necessitates a lack of context. Needless to say, Bier and Jensen’s script is gritty and ruthless in its execution of already poignant subject matter. The film flawlessly invokes a range of emotion from disgust to existential panic, and yet never compromises good writing for sentimentality.
The success of A Second Chance owes much to Michael Keith Synman’s cinematography, which massively complements Bier’s directorial vision: the employment of shaky, faux-POV shots and a dark, muted colour palette is present and powerful, while maintaining a crucial subtlety to avoid becoming gimmicky. At the same time, however, the film is broken up by moments of more sustained, still, high-exposure shots that are initially effective, but become more tedious towards the film’s conclusion.
The ending also perhaps borders on unsatisfying in that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s portrayal of the protagonist is never fully realised. Besides a single, brief, seemingly arbitrary expression of violent despondency, the enormous emotional weight of the piece seems to have little effect. Though Coster-Waldau’s reaction to Bier’s direction is undoubtedly indicative of a great actor, the character itself is given little room to visibly justify its extreme moral compass, or allow the viewer to identify with it.
A Second Chance is very much a character-driven film both in plot and theme, and the five central actors give outstanding portrayals of their respective characters’ attempts to grapple with the monolithic central question. Though each is punished for their judgements, there is never a hint of objectivity in their decisions. The same hyper-realism that permeates the script is carried out here: characters are allowed to falter in speech, or pause awkwardly, or repeat themselves or talk over each other for the simple reason that they are all humans. A Second Chance is truly a great demonstration of humanity.
A Second Chance is released nationwide on 20th March 2015.
Watch the trailer for A Second Chance here: