2020, R, 110 mins.
Mads Mikkelsen as Martin / Thomas Bo Larsen as Tommy / Lars Ranthe as Peter / Magnus Millang as Nikolaj / Maria Bonnevie as Trine / Susse Wold as RektorDirected by Thomas Vinterberg / Written by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm
ANOTHER ROUND marks a rather triumphant re-teaming of Danish director Thomas Vinterberg and star Mads Mikkelsen (who last partnered up on 2012's THE HUNT) and it features arguably the most deliriously - ahem! - intoxicating premise of any movie from the year that was.
There have been
countless films about teachers, people suffering from mid-life crisis, and
those afflicted with alcoholism, but this film manages to cover all three
of those elements and blends them together into something that emerges as
both darkly funny and touchingly dramatic all the same.
And at the heart of ANOTHER ROUND is the presence of the terribly
underrated Mikkelsen (CASINO ROYALE
and TV's HANNIBAL), who's the emotional glue that holds this film joyously
together. In a lesser actor
and director's hands this could have approached disposable Will Ferrell-ian
slapstick, but Vinterberg alongside his versatile and committed cast crafts
a picture with relatable and potent themes of the benefits and dangers of
using certain coping mechanisms to numb pain and get one out of an
And Mikkelsen in
definitely in career high, Oscar caliber form here playing Martin, a
Copenhagen based history teacher that's frankly lost his passion as an
educator...and for just about everything else in his life.
When he's not trying to inspire his apathetic students he
pathetically tries to keep his marriage to Anika (Maria Bonnevie) afloat,
even though it has become clear that they now occupy a loveless union.
In short, Martin is a sad sack without much of a positive outlook
for the future, an emotional state that hits his fellow teaching
colleagues and BFFs in much the same manner - Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen),
Peter (Lars Ranthe), and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang).
When the men gather to celebrate Nikolaj's fortieth birthday they
chat about the trials and tribulations of teaching unmotivated students,
which is not assisted by the fact that none of them are particularly
motivated at all. What they
need is a mutual intervention to wake them all up out of their doldrums to
allow for them to gain a new outlook of their careers and lives.
One of them
brings up the real life theories of psychiatrist Finn Skarderud, who
maintained a highly controversial, but tantalizing hypothesis about using
alcohol to improve one's station in the world.
He proposed that someone having their blood alcohol level at a
constant 0.05 throughout any given day makes one more confident, chill,
and productive. The men then
have an epiphany: Why not test out this wild theory on daily binge
drinking? They then
collectively decide to embark on a shared experiment that will require all
of them to drink everyday and throughout the day to maintain the
aforementioned level, but with very specific ground rules (like, for
example, no drinking past 8pm and not getting sloshed beyond the
established levels). This
plan is, of course, not without its inherent risks (showing up to work too
hammered would be an occupational death sentence, especially while working
with kids), but Martin and his cohorts decide to give it a go.
It's at this
stage in ANOTHER ROUND when viewers think they know precisely where the
story is heading, but Vinterberg takes some novel and unexpected twists
and turns with the material. For
starters, Martin's team experiment is actually a rousing success in the
early stages, all things considered. Martin in particular becomes the hip and cool teacher that
his students have always wanted him to be, and he begins utilizing some
out of the box teaching methods that help his history lessons feel more
relatable and understandable. Martin
also begins to re-establish a healthy sexual relationship with his
semi-estranged wife. His
partners in crime also begin achieving workplace excellence on the
teaching front as well, with all of them finding innovative ways to
reconnect with students they once found unreachable.
Of course, the men have to be more than careful on their drinking
protocols (using breathalyzers daily to ensure they're not too out of
sorts), but they all soon want to extend the experiment a bit further and
take ever larger calculated risks, like, for instance, raising the blood
alcohol level higher to see if they can still manage to push the envelope
at work and home. And, of
course, when has drinking more heavily ever truly solved any problem?
premise behind ANOTHER ROUND is thoroughly ingenious.
Now, I've been around people all of my life that have maintained
that getting a little buzzed is essential for taking off the emotional
edge after a hard day at work, but the plan by Martin as his pals pretty
much does things in reverse: They can only drink during work hours
to see if it positively or negatively affects their likeability and
productivity. Watching the
story unfold becomes equal parts amusing and tense, seeing as these
depressed middle aged men do manage to perform better on the job, but to
what ultimate end game? One
of the more powerful themes of ANOTHER ROUND concerns the options that
some downward spiraling people will look towards for the purposes of
self-healing, with being inebriated daily the preferred choice for these
guys. Early on - and with the
results boasting solid gains - these men feel vindicated and justified in
their experiment, and some key scenes in the film are little masterpieces
of observation. One in
particular is a standout and features Martin using some compelling
analogies to get his students to think critically about the differences
and similarities between various historical figures, good and bad.
Even though Martin is, yes, legally drunk, there's undeniable proof
here that his students just seem more transfixed with him with his
newfound personality shift. He
becomes the teacher everyone wants as opposed to before being one that
everyone tries to avoid. And
to Martin...this is precisely what he wanted to achieve.
But, again, at
what cost? It should be
noted that ANOTHER ROUND never sensationalizes drinking or the terrors of
alcoholism, but it rarely tries to sermonize messages down our throats
about the obvious pratfalls involved in diving into the bottle too much.
No, Vinterberg's approach is much more sly and nuanced in terms of
finding this difficult to navigate middle ground showing these men
blissfully succeeding where they once didn't (and often to humorous
effect) while also hinting that this plan - and its ever increasing
elevated stakes - will ultimately lead to no good. In many respects, there's merriment to be had in ANOTHER
ROUND as well as darkness and dread; watching these men conquering their
fields is uplifting, but you just know that a few slip ups on their
journey will lead them down a horrible path and could cost them
everything, including their jobs. Martin
himself is a fascinatingly layered character in terms of being a man that
was once driven, but now is not...and he can't quite put his finger on the
reasons as to why. He feels
detached from everyone and everything, so much so that he gives credence
to the potential merits of drinking as a solution.
This whole experiment is indeed nutty, but ANOTHER ROUND does such
an exemplary job of fleshing out these characters and making them feel
real and relatable that you begin to buy into the reasons why these men
would chose their experimental paths.
Booze does clean up the messiness of their lives at first, but as
they up the ante they all find themselves in worse places than when they