Heavy drinking is generally depicted in one of two ways in cinema: either it’s a depressing, relationship-and-career-ruining failure on the drinker’s part, or it’s a rowdy, fratty rite of passage. Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round asks; why not both? Vinterberg examines our need for booze without pathologizing it and not losing sight of the fun that can be had when you’re wasted with your friends, making for a film that is moving, fun, and far less predictable than you might assume.
Another Round centres on four teachers at a Danish secondary school, all good friends and all going through some sort of midlife crisis, whether it’s marriage troubles, loneliness, or being on autopilot at work, failing to inspire the class that’s due to graduate. Psychology teacher Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) proposes, based on a scientific study of dubious value, that the four of them aim to keep their blood alcohol level at a minimum of 0.05% throughout the day, loosening them up and reigniting their passion for life.
The boozing affects each man in a different way, but the most striking difference is in Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), whose formerly boring and forgettable history classes become energetic, rabble-rousing celebrations, beloved by the students. Mikkelsen is on great form, the best he’s been since perhaps The Hunt in 2012, going from muted tragedy during the opening, sober, scenes to far more effervescent as Martin’s newfound confidence allows him to retake control of his life. Convincing drunk acting is a fine art, one that is easily overplayed, but all four leads nail it.
Though Another Round plays largely as you’d expect it to in the first two acts – the fun and early successes of the drinking giving way to the inevitable family and health issues that come with constant alcohol consumption – it’s still funny and compelling, before the final third ends up blindsiding you. It’s incredibly moving and uplifting, featuring a truly extraordinary Mads Mikkelsen dance number and pushing the admittedly sketch show-esque premise to unexpected, emotionally resonant places.
As cheap a pun as it may be, Another Round is, well, intoxicating. Vinterberg creates such a heady atmosphere that even the most sober viewer will be swept up, and manages to capture all the different stages and feelings of drunkenness on screen in a series of stylistic coups, until you feel you’re at a boozy party yourself. There’s sadness here, yes, and some big questions on how ingrained alcohol is as part of European culture, but ultimately Another Round seeks to entertain as much as interrogate, a surprising but incredibly fruitful choice.