Another Round, 2020
Written and Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang, Maria Bonnevie, Susse Wold, Helene Reingaard Neumann, Martin Greis-Rosenthal, and Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt
Four high school teachers launch a drinking experiment: upholding a constant low level of intoxication.
Danish high school World History teacher Martin plays a game with his students: which one of the following three personality descriptions would they elect as a world leader. Two of them sound like disasters waiting to happen in charge, whereas one of them seems fitting to run a country. Naturally, the students go with that pick.
They just selected Adolf Hitler.
The reasoning behind this teaching exercise (aside from the fact that students are more likely to learn and retain information if education is made more relatable and interesting) falls in line with the social experiment at the center of Another Round (the latest from Thomas Vinterberg that sees him once again collaborating with The Hunt filmmaker – not to be confused with the American film released earlier this year of an entirely different genre – Mads Mikkelsen) taken from a theory that hypothesizes human beings are born with 0.5% less blood-alcohol than required to fully function throughout the day. The solution to this is to have the amount of alcohol in the body starting in the morning until the evening.
Considering his life is falling apart around him (distant from his wife who regularly works night shifts leaving not much time to talk to one another, barely a connection with his children, and high school seniors nervous that his lack of enthusiasm or interest in teaching is going to have them failing an important SAT like exam), Martin gives in to the pressure from his friends (all of which also work at the high school) to see if the tried-and-true Danish lifestyle of functioning alcoholic is the way to go.
While an actor of great talent such as Mads Mikkelsen is already enough to hold this scientifically experimental narrative together (there’s a terrific scene of him drinking and dancing that is everything from energetic and a riot to watch, to infectious with its celebration of living, and topped with a hint of uncertainty especially if you are a cynic); the character becomes exponentially more lively as he starts drinking, and as a result, Another Round itself perks up with humorous bad behavior. A gym teacher has to avoid giving a child a sip of his water bottle spiked with alcohol, another one of them stockpiles alcohol in areas of the school, and they admittedly become more effective at their job.
It turns out the functioning alcoholic lifestyle also improves their home life; Martin starts planning a vacation with his wife and rekindling their spark, they become better parents, and they generally find life more fulfilling. Naturally, all of it comes at a cost once they decide to start pushing the drinking experiments further and further (having higher levels of alcohol in their system throughout the day), authentically depicting how alcoholism begins. Wisely, Another Round never steps too far into full-blown comedy territory and it’s all the better for it factoring in the heavy dramatic beats that are successfully hit here. And while it sounds like the obvious line of thinking is to want all of these characters to give up drinking, the dynamic is not that simple.
Can there be a healthy balance of drinking throughout the day without both bordering on self-destruction and developing alcoholic tendencies? Another Round doesn’t really have the answer, choosing to show various kinds of cause-and-effect for consuming alcohol in the first place. Thomas Vinterberg is sticking to the social experiment premise of the plot, meaning viewers are going to take away different things from the movie. Although there is one constant in this experiment; happiness breeds positive results. The idea of spending two hours with drunk people sounds like torture, but Another Round chases the concept with likable and layered characters, a calibrated performance from Mads Mikkelsen, and an open-ended climax that should start conversations.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com