Does living your best life require a shot of vodka?
By Diana Beechener
Martin (Mads Mikkelsen: Polar) is sleepwalking through life. He barely speaks to his wife, his boys don’t notice when he leaves a room, and the students he teaches AP history to don’t respect him or his lessons. While celebrating a colleague’s 40th birthday, he realizes just how far he’s fallen from the promising professor and husband he was decades ago.
His coworkers also feel life has passed them by. Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen: Advokaten) is a gym teacher that can barely bother to coach children’s soccer games. Nikolaj (Magnus Millang: Heavy Load) is overwhelmed with his two young sons and uncaring students. Peter (Lars Ranthe: Badehotellet) is a lonely music teacher who can’t seem to find a relationship. All four men know something is drastically wrong, but they aren’t sure what to do about it.
Eventually, they stumble on an idea: a Norwegian philosopher conjectured that people were born with a Blood Alcohol Content that was slightly too low. By having one or two drinks during the day, people would experience greater satisfaction with their personal lives and jobs. Martin and the men decide to give it a try under the guise of writing an academic paper based on their findings. They establish some ground rules: They can only drink during the day, never on the weekends or at night, and they must strictly monitor themselves with breathalyzers so they can maintain the correct BAC.
At first, the experiment is a rousing success. Martin finds a way to engage his students and begins to build inroads with his wife and son. Peter is making friends and flirting. Nikolaj doesn’t get flustered when his wife demands organic fish for dinner. And Tommy has found a way to connect with the kids he coaches, mentoring a small frightened boy.
Things are going so well it seems silly not to see what would happen if they drink a little more. What’s the worst that could happen?
A great film to watch if you rang in the new year with a bit too much zeal, Another Round is a funny, poignant film about excess and ennui. Director Thomas Vinterberg (The Command) crafts a brilliant tale about regrets and how disastrous simple solutions can be. This isn’t, however, a film about teetotaling. Vinterberg carefully shows that alcohol isn’t what’s dragging these men down, it’s their unwillingness to face things without a bit of liquid courage.
Vinterberg also does an admirable job of capturing the different levels of intoxication. This isn’t a movie where the characters have one shot and then go stumbling and slurring around the hallways. Vinterberg catalogs just how easy it is to hide casual drinking. The film is a wonderfully wry observation of coping mechanisms that never falls into cynicism. Vinterberg fosters real feeling for his subjects, and you’ll cringe as the characters make horrendous decisions.
Though the entire ensemble is strong, Mikkelsen easily carries the film. His Martin is a broken man, so lost in his feelings of inadequacy that he can’t fathom pulling himself from it. Mikkelsen’s power as an actor comes from his subtly expressive face. There’s a heartbreaking moment early in the film when his placid exterior cracks, crushed by the weight of his own failures. When Martin slowly begins to piece his life together, only to watch it crumble anew, it becomes even more tragic. The performance has won him several acting accolades through Europe and is one of the best of the year.
While the subject matter of Another Round may seem heavy, it’s actually a fairly joyous film. The movie isn’t seeking to scold, Vinterberg is much more interested in encouraging the audience to look at what’s really holding them back. Think of it as Soul with a heavy hangover and a little less existentialism. The final musical number is the perfect 2021 energy, encouraging viewers to embrace life (without embracing a full bottle of vodka).
Great Drama * R * 117 mins.