Introduced by an on-screen quotation from Abraham Lincoln and an Indiana 1817 notation, "The Better Angels" follows its central character with a flowing camera, intermittent voiceover narration, and a series of instructive lessons. But this dreamlike film never explicitly identifies its illustrious central character--Lincoln as a boy shaped by his loving, indulgent stepmother and his taciturn, strict father.
This is a complex biopic, not easily accessible without your doing some homework. It helps if you've visited the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Ill. It helps, too, if you've studied the democratic process and know the ambiance of the rough House of Representatives, say, over that of the sedate Senate. Also helpful is an understanding of the parallel lines of the 13th Amendment and the peace treaty that ended our Civil War. "Lincoln" covers these areas while concentrating on Abraham Lincoln, the man of wit and wisdom.