In Susanne Bier’s morally complex film, A Second Chance, police officers Andreas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Simon (Ulrich Thomsen) are called to a domestic violence dispute involving sadistic, volatile ex-con Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and his battered girlfriend, Sanne (May Andersen). Andreas discovers Sanne’s baby, Sofus, stuffed in a cupboard covered with feces. Andreas, a new father, is disgusted at the squalor the baby lives in, and he’s even more disgusted when he learns that since the mother is not a druggie (unlike Tristan) and the baby is not malnourished, Sofus cannot be removed into protective care. This incident causes Andreas to go home early and give his baby, Alexander, who is about the same age as Sofus, extra affection that night.
Andreas is married to Anna (Maria Bonnevie) and they have the perfect life. Anna has always longed for a baby, and their lakeside home, covered with lights and candles is a wonderful place to raise a child. Alexander wakes a lot at night and cries, and Andreas takes turns with the baby at night in order to give his wife a break. One night, Anna wakes to discover that Alexander is dead. Andreas wants to call an ambulance but Anna, in hysterics, begs him not to. Andreas gives Anna sleeping pills to calm her down and she swears that if the baby is gone when she wakes up, she will commit suicide. And here’s where Andreas goes off the rails: he breaks into Tristan and Sanne’s apartment (they are both drugged up to the eyeballs) and he steals Sofus, leaving Alexander in his place.
It was initially difficult to watch Tristan higher than a kite, beating Sanne, but since this is a Susanne Bier film, I stuck with it, and am glad I did. There are many mixed reviews of this film out there, but since I love a good moral dilemma story, I loved this film. The plot is reminiscent of Dostoevsky in its tangled moral complexity, and Andreas’s life goes from bad to worse.
Simon, Andreas’s partner, whose life is a mess following his divorce, begins to smell a rat, but it is impossible to guess the twists and turns this story takes on its way to its ending. This tale of moral redemption stresses that one cannot interrupt the life path of any other individual; we have not the right. After chewing the film over, I decided that Andreas, who switched out the babies so quickly, did so partly as he was struggling with the idea that these 2 boys, so close in age, faced such different futures. He could not save his son, so he chose to save Sofus. Anyway, for this viewer, an absolutely brilliant film–although not easy to watch. Tristan’s performance as the druggie with this ‘brilliant fix-it plan’ was incredible.