ANOTHER ROUND (2020)

another round (2020)
Four middle-aged teachers and friends test a theory that they'll improve their lives by maintaining a constant level of alcohol in their bloodstream.
3.5 out of 5 stars

According to Norwegian philosopher and psychologist Finn Skårderud, human beings are born with a blood alcohol content deficiency. 0.05% too low, to be precise. And so we should drink to that level to maintain it, and as a result make ourselves more confident, open, and musical. Drunk, but not too drunk.

So when middle-aged history teacher Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) finds himself in a rut, unable to communicate with his wife and seemingly bereft of his once life-affirming vitality, he enthusiastically joins his three colleagues and friends—Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe), and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang)—on an intoxicating experiment, in writer-director Thomas Vinterberg’s best film since The Hunt (2012).

During a 40th birthday celebration for Nikolaj, the four discuss Martin’s mid-life crisis. At first he’s closed off and stoic, but after a sip of some high-end “velvety” Russian vodka and a couple of glasses of wine, he opens up. They discuss Skårderud’s philosophy, causing Martin to ‘experiment’ with vodka whilst teaching and, although morally dubious, to good effect. His students become more engaged in their learning as he switches gears. The foursome decide to put Skårderud’s idea to the test: they’ll maintain a blood alcohol content of 0.05% during work hours only (“just like Hemingway”) and record the results. 

Although English audiences may know Mikkelsen for his more sinister roles in Hannibal (2013-15) and Bond villain Le Chifre from Casino Royale (2006), in Another Round the Danish actor provides one of his best naturalistic performances and steals the show. The script gives his character much more attention and development than the rest, so in comparison the other three central performances aren’t as intoxicating as Mikkelsen’s, but whether he’s taking it down a notch to talk things through with his wife, stumbling over in a supermarket in search of fresh cod, or literally being bathed in champagne, Mikkelsen’s breezy and effortless throughout, making Martin an affable character who’s difficult not to root for. 

The film does well to not celebrate alcoholism, which it could have easily done. Instead, it shows how easy it is to fall into addiction without realising it. At first, their lives are elevated; they do their jobs better and their relationships improve, but they soon start drinking more and more and become reckless. The lines between cooky experiment, having a good tike and outright alcoholism are often blurred, and it’s at these points when the films slips from comedy to melodrama. 

For all its drunken madness, there are more sobering moments as the reality of what happens when you give four blokes suffering a mid-life crises exponential amounts of booze. As Martin, Tommy, Peter, and Nikolaj switch gears, so too does the film itself. Its more poignant moments catch you off guard, but aren’t as impactful as one would hope or expect as Martin’s the only character fleshed out enough for audiences to develop any real connection with.

Another Round tries to do a little too much and a number of minor storylines feel surplus to requirements. The first two-thirds are stronger than the last, which feels like it has to spend most of its time tying up loose ends before we reach the glorious closing sequence (which is more than worth the wait): Mad Mikkelsen, prancing and dancing in the sun while taking an occasional, carefully choreographed swig of bear as he’s doused in champagne to the film’s catchy main soundtrack “What a Life”. Who wouldn’t revel in seeing that?

Ultimately, that is what Another Round is all about: it’s a celebration of life. And in these times of pandemic lockdowns where we’re restricted in the amount of fun we’re having and friends we’re seeing, there’s a certain melancholia in watching it… but also hope for what’s to come when it’s all over…

DENMARK | 2020 | 115 MINUTES | COLOUR | DANISH • SWEDISH

london film festival 2020
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Cast & Crew

director: Thomas Vinterberg.
writers: Thomas Vinterberg & Tobias Lindholm.
starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang & Lars Ranthe.

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