A Second Chance (4 stars)

A Second Chance

Glasgow Film Festival: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau impresses in this potent drama

Danish policeman Andreas (Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is adjusting to life as a new parent with wife Anna (Maria Bonnevie) when he visits the home of drug addicts Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and girlfriend Sanne (May Andersen) to discover their baby son locked in a cupboard, covered in his own excrement. Frustratingly, Andreas finds his options to help the child are limited, but when fate deals a tragic hand he makes a life-changing decision.

Relentlessly harrowing it may be – and that Anders Thomas Jensen's screenplay has been contrived for maximum emotional impact may be a sticking point for many – but A Second Chance has considerable, visceral force. Coster-Waldau is exceptional as a man close to breaking point and, while his actions are increasingly irrational, his desperation is palpable enough that they are, crucially, understandable. As Anna, Bonnevie gives a nuanced performance that grows in intensity and, even though Tristan and Sanne have been pared down to abusive ciphers, Kaas and Andersen are wholly convincing as chilling examples of a horrifying situation that goes on behind all manner of closed doors.

And that's the issue being explored here; none of us, no matter our status, are immune from the ravages of life. With her expert observational touch, director Susanne Bier has turned this psychological drama into something that cuts far deeper, right into the heart of the family. In a way not often seen outside of the horror genre, Bier takes particular aim at the maternal urge, highlighting the extreme societal pressure placed on all women to do their biological duty without question, and with huge sacrifice, no matter their circumstances. That some women may not want to be – or, indeed, should not be – mothers remains one of the last social taboos; one that the film, much like Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, confronts head on. Shocking onscreen imagery aside, it’s this unflinching dismantling of the myth of the saintliness of motherhood that gives A Second Chance its lingering, devastating power.

Screening on Sat 21 Feb and Sun 22 Feb as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2015. General release from Fri 20 Mar.

A Second Chance | Trailer

A Second Chance (En chance til)

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • Denmark
  • 1h 45min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Susanne Bier
  • Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ulrich Thomsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas
  • UK release: 20 March 2015

Emotionally devastating Scandinavian family drama.