Beware of Children traces the dramatic aftermath of a tragic event in a middle-class suburb of Oslo. During a break in school 13-year old Lykke, the daughter of a prominent Labour Party member, seriously injures her classmate Jamie, the son of a high-profile right-wing politician. When Jamie later dies in hospital, contradicting versions of what actually happened risks making a difficult situation worse. Liv, the school’s principal and the secret lover of Jamie’s father, confronts the community in distress and her own conflicted emotions.
Nordic Jury´s motivation:
A thirteen-year-old dies after fighting with another pupil in the schoolyard. Because of this incident, the adults surrounding these pupils must face a myriad of new thoughts and dilemmas, which are the starting point for Dag Johan Haugerud’s ambitious and thoughtful film Beware of Children. With empathy and the utmost seriousness Haugerud explores the relationship between children and adults, and asks pressing questions. How well do the parents and teachers really know the children in their care? Do parents have an obligation to believe their children? To what degree should they protect them? Is it really possible to always act in the best interests of a child? And why does it feel so much worse when something dramatic happens to a child, compared to an adult?
Haugerud presents complex and engaging characters and situations within broad contexts, which together serve as a portrait of modern Norway. The parents’ political ideologies influence their discussions about children and how to raise them. The school principal discovers that the demands of the system and bureaucracy are sometimes at odds with her own wishes and impulses. This is the origin of some of the dark comedy in Beware of Children, which ensures that the film is never hard to watch in spite of its heavy themes. Humour is also omnipresent in scenes where the adults, with varying degrees of success, have to suppress their own vanity and aggression in order to keep the peace. Some of them discover traits in themselves that they are not proud of. Maybe the grownups, too, are children, deep down inside.
Dag Johan Haugerud is a filmmaker of distinction, with a highly personal view of the world and an unusually well attuned ear for dialogue. Over the years he has cultivated a warm and trusting relationship with some of Norway’s finest actors, and in Beware of Children they bring out the best in each other. This is a rich film about that which matters most of all.
Nordic Jury members: Inger Merete Hobbelstad, Per Juul Carlsen, Jaana Puskala, Hilmar Oddson, Kristina Börjeson
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National Jury´s motivation:
At its core, Beware of Children is about “the Norwegian way of life”. Yet artistically and thematically, it extends far beyond this. What is essentially a tragic story is balanced with a subtle strand of political ingenuity and human warmth. Through three generations and their web of relationships, a diverse picture is drawn of a society in which adults and children live close together but remain in their own worlds, dealing with feelings of guilt and conscience in different ways. In a subdued way, Beware of Children addresses the fundamentals of life.
National Jury: Inger Merete Hobbelstad, Kalle Løchen, Britt Sørensen