Another Round (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): Sensible Drinking?

Thomas Vinterberg’s latest film “Another Round”, which was selected as the Danish entry for Best International Feature Film Oscar in last year, cheerfully staggers along with its four different main characters who decide to give a little boost to their mundane life via constant daytime drinking. While they inevitably come to face the consequence of their ‘controlled’ drinking just like most of heavy drinkers out there, the movie never loses its balance between humor and drama in its risky staggering act, and it even manages to pull out a genuine feel-good last scene in the end.

At the beginning, the movie establishes how life and work have been uneventful and aimless for Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) and his three close colleagues in a high school he and they have worked for years. During his history class, Martin is so lackadaisical in his teaching that even his students notices his lack of passion, and they later request a meeting between him and their parents for reminding him that he really should teach and help them more for the upcoming examination to determine their next year. In case of his family, Martin and his wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie) have been estranged from each other for years as they are usually occupied with their respective jobs, and that makes him wonder whether he does not love her anymore.

Martin’s three close colleagues, Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe), and Nikolaj (Maganus Millang), have also been more aware of the growing ennui and frustration in their respective careers and lives, and they and Martin come to find some little solace from their dinner meeting for Nikolaj’s birthday at a local restaurant. As they drink and eat more, they become a little more relaxed and excited than usual, and Nikolaj, who incidentally teaches psychology, mentions an interesting theory by Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud, who argued that having a blood alcohol content of 0.05% can make humans more creative and relaxed. Although this theory sounds absurd at first, Martin later comes to consider constantly maintaining his blood alcohol content (BAC) level at 0.05% during daytime, and he soon embarks on his little drinking experiment behind his back.

With his BAC level at 0.05%, Martin certainly begins to show little signs of inebriety including a little difficulty in his pronunciation, but, what do you know, he find himself becoming more active than before in his history class, and he happily report this considerable change of his to his three colleagues. Eventually, they come to join Martin in this little drinking experiment, and Nikolaj is particularly excited as this might be a great opportunity for him to write an important research report.

Once they begin the drinking experiment together, the screenplay by Vinterberg and his co-writer Tobias Lindholm gives us a series of droll moments to amuse us. While Martin gradually becomes a more passionate and inspiring teacher for his students, he also actively tries to improve his relationship with his wife, and his wife is certainly surprised and delighted by that. In case of his three colleagues, Peter and Nikolaj find themselves more creative in their respective teaching methods, and Tommy, who is a physical education teacher, begins to work as the coach for a junior soccer team during his free time – and he surely motivates these little kids a lot while drinking again and again.

As their drinking experiment turns out to be much more positive than expected, Martin and his three colleagues soon consider increasing their BAC level a bit more, and nobody is against that at all because, well, they cannot resist having another round as becoming your typical drinker. So far, they all have managed to hide their drinking experiment behind their back, but they are approaching to more risks and dangers, and that is particularly evident from Tommy, who slowly begins to show the apparent signs of your average alcoholics.

It is not much of a spoiler to tell you that things will consequently be out of their control as they drink more and more, and then there comes a point where our four main characters must deal with what has been inadvertently caused by their drinking experiment. It goes without saying that they surely hit the bottom like any other drinkers out there, and the mood accordingly becomes more serious when a devastating incident happens later in the story.

Nevertheless, the movie somehow finds a way to bounce from that during the finale while never overlooking their hefty price of heavy drinking, and Mads Mikkelsen, who previously collaborated with Vinterberg in “The Hunt” (2012), is simply mesmerizing in expressing his character’s complicated feelings through a series of spontaneous physical movements on the screen. As Martin’s three colleagues, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, and Magnus Millang have each own moment to shine around Mikkelsen, and Maria Bonnevie is also fine in her small but crucial supporting role.

Overall, “Another Round” feels relatively lightweight compared to Vinterberg’s recent previous works such as “Far from the Madding Crowd” (2015), and “Kursk” (2018), but it is an interesting comedy drama film supported well by the strong performance from Mikkelsen and several other cast members, and I appreciated its many moments as a guy who knows one or two things about drinking. Yes, drinking is indeed a vice from which I should stay away as much as I can, but I will not deny that I was entertained a lot during my viewing.

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