Thomas Vinterberg and Mads Mikkelsen reunite for the first time since 2012’s powerful drama The Hunt, with the poignant comedy-drama Another Round. A subtle tale of addiction, friendship, love, and loss, Another Round shifts slickly between slapstick and tragedy. Vinterberg successfully recaptures The Hunt’s frantic energy exerted in severe circumstances but playfully employs them in different measures.
Martin (Mikkelsen), Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe), and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) are four high school teachers all standing on the edge of banality and mediocrity. In hopes of reigniting the joy and excitement of their younger years, the quartet embarks on an experiment based on New Age philosophy. The experiment involves maintaining a steady flow of alcohol in the bloodstream, with the intent of helping them leave the doldrums of life behind. This concept is loosely based on psychotherapist Finn Skarderud’s theory that humans are born with too low a level of alcohol in the blood. Whilst testing this theory, each teacher begins to see the different effects of alcohol on their personal and professional lives.
Mikkelsen is typically brilliant in the role of Martin, an emotionally vacant history teacher who has drifted away from both his students and family. His wife Trine (Marie Bonnevie) exerts herself to raise the pairs’ children, whilst once charming and ambitious Martin has grown apathetic and frustrated. The prospects of a life-changing experiment as suggested on a night out by psych teacher Nikolaj (Millang) sound appealing. Though this premise entails an air of predictability regarding the oncoming chaos, it is still executed poignantly.
Though the film may paint a perhaps less-than-accurate, broad portrait of drinking culture in Denmark, Vinterberg’s convictions lie in much more personal places. Their desire to feel and live is palpable even if attached to misguided philosophies, Another Round embraces life and its consequences. There is never an effort to make sweeping statements about Danish alcohol consumption. Rather, Another Round is a touching tale of the battle with addiction and middle-age malaise and character study, as it plays upon each character’s evident flaws, denial, and delusions.
Vinterberg avoids Hangover-style absurdity with a subtle blend of contradictory emotions. Much of the credit goes to Mikkelsen, who delivers rousing half cut speeches and a final sequence drunk-dance that is so brilliantly choreographed. The performances of Larsen, Ranthe, and Millang are equally as capable as Mikkelsen, but this film should serve as a reminder that Mikkelsen is one of the finest working actors in the business today. The film deservedly fits alongside others that interrogate masculinity and excesses like Fight Club, The Lost Weekend, and The Idiots. There is a Bukowski-esque sense of pessimism in the approach to alcoholism’s effects in the film, that is tempered by the realism of dire consequences. Without preaching to or imposing itself upon its audience, Another Round offers a perfect blend of melancholy and comedy.