'Another Round' Review
With or without seeing this, I am 100% sure that I had teachers either tipsy, drunk or hungover at some point while in school so it's not a huge surprise that another Nordic person decided to make it into a film. Danish director Thomas Vinterberg's latest effort Another Round (Druk in Danish), one which he also co-wrote with Tobias Lindholm, is a dramedy which is both treasuring alcohol and also showing the ugly side of alcoholism at the same time. Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is a middle-aged teacher who is struggling in his job, the marriage with his wife has become passionless and he finds himself void of joy. Inspired by a Norwegian psychiatrist's theory, he and his three teacher friends - Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) and Peter (Lars Ranthe) - who are in a similar deadlock begin to live their lives (like showing up to teach) with a certain amount of blood alcohol content, starting from 0.05 before increasing it, in order to track how much more creative and responsive they become. As booze does, it ends up affecting everyone in the group differently. Spearheaded by Mikkelsen's exhilarating performance and deeply felt characters, Vinterberg's creation is a thrilling experimentation on its own and trusts the audience to examine the results.
On the very surface level, Another Round does appear to be like your typical movie about intoxicants and how deep your main character falls but what makes not only Martin but the whole quartet much more refined is the fact that it's not just a story about downfall. Tommy's journey is more of that as he counterbalances many comedic moments with his tragic fate while Nikolaj ends up at a quite ambivalent place. Peter's experiment on the other hand is somewhat hopeful which compliments Martin's. Mikkelsen's portrayal of him is both technically incredible and unexpected even considering that this is Danish cinema, his restraint to not overplay anything is what makes Martin immediately believable to the audience. It's a big ask from any actor to play all of it in one role; anger, distress, insecurity, melancholy and pure joy, in both sober and drunken state.
It'd be rather easy to forget that all of this character exploration is going on while the actors are playing drunk which is never the easy part, nevertheless when the story revolves around being at different levels of inebriation. Along with Mikkelsen, Ranthe also stands out from the group as he gets a few scenes with a student that have the perfect balance of comedic elements and emotional heaviness where he knocks it out of the park. Much of the film relies on staying at a certain level but Tommy's story is where the script sometimes goes to blackout-drunk-mode. The screenplay is so invested in Martin that the tragic event doesn't have the impact it should've had. The third act is a bit jarring because of that but Vinterberg and Mikkelsen manage to pull one more rabbit out of their hats with the film's ending that will be one of the decade's best, no doubt. Having gone through the wringer already, Mikkelsen's act of catharsis in the last scene backed by an excellent music choice is a beautiful dance between the actor's movement, cinematographer's eye and director's faith in the performance. And then the last frame lets the viewer decide whether they are flying or falling. Magnificent.
Smileys: Mads Mikkelsen, ending, characterisation, Lars Ranthe
Frowneys: Minor issues with screenplay
The lake run is actually a natural evolution from lake swim which had terrible consequences. Better to pass out on dry land.