FILM by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

A Second Chance
RPL Film Theatre
December 3-6
3.5 out of 5

Danish cinema is transgressive by nature. Even at its most commercial, there is an edge to the output that distinguishes it from the rest of Europe: pessimistic, brave and undeniably human. It often tackles social issues filmmakers in other countries wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.

A Second Chance deals with the issue of parental competence — how is it defined, and who gets to decide if someone is capable of raising a child. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones) is Andreas, a straight-laced cop dealing with a soul-crushing job and a wife who suffers from post-partum depression.

His professional and personal lives collide when his newborn dies unexpectedly. To prevent his wife from committing suicide, Andreas rousts a junkie couple he’d busted earlier and commits an unforgiveable crime. His alcoholic partner (Ulrich Thomsen, Banshee) suspects foul play, but can’t pinpoint who did what.

Directed by Susanne Bier (Brothers, In a Better World), the film takes several sharp turns, one of them truly upsetting. Some of the images can be taxing to watch, especially when a baby is employed as a plot point to move the story forward. But Bier makes wise use of familiar cop-movie tropes, especially when pitting the hero against the sidekick.

While A Second Chance comes close to misery porn at times, it serves as a Rorschach test of the audience’s own feelings about parental rights. I didn’t care much for the movie when I first saw it during TIFF ’14, but it hasn’t left my mind since.