Humanitarian doctor Anton's (Persbrandt) non-judgemental work in a disease-ravaged African refugee camp lends him the gloss of unimpeachable virtue.
He works round the clock, uncomplainingly stitching up the young, pregnant victims of a vicious warlord and then returning home to Denmark to calmly deliver lessons of non-violence to his bullied son Elias (Rygaard).
However, he is not without his flaws. His constant shuttling between Africa and Scandinavia has placed strains on his marriage to Marianne (Dyrholm) which are compounded by a passionate - and bitterly regretted - affair with another woman.
His pacifist approach to his son's persecution by a nasty school bully contrasts strikingly with that adopted by his son's new friend Christian (Nielsen), who batters the yob over the head and holds a knife to his throat.
Admiring his new buddy's uncompromising attitude to schoolyard aggressors, Elias finds himself ashamed of his conciliatory dad when he literally turns the other cheek to an aggressive taxi driver after a playground spat.
Director Bier and her regular screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen construct a believable series of events where notions of Western civilisation as opposed to Third World moral disarray are put to the test.
The acting - particularly that of the youngsters - is grippingly persuasive with Nielsen particularly strong as the youngster following a darkly violent route to assuage grief at the death of his young mother.
A worthy winner of the Academy Award for 2010's best foreign language film.