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ANOTHER ROUND (2020) review

December 31, 2020


written by: Tobias Lindholm
produced by: Sisse Graum Jørgensen and Kasper Dissing
directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
rating: not rated
runtime: 115 min.
U.S. release date: December 18, 2020 (virtual, Amazon)


Three Danish talents reunite for “Another Round” and it feels like whenever director Thomas Vinterberg, writer Tobias Lindholm, and actor Mads Mikkelsen get together, the outcome is something special. Granted, they’ve only done one previous film together, but that was the Oscar-nominated “The Hunt” from 2012 and while that was a tough watch, it was definitely great work from all three artists. Although their latest once again touches on some bleak subject matter, it is a dramedy that does so in a bit more of a balanced manner, adding doses of levity and hope to prevent us from being left in utter despair.

Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is a high school history teacher in Copenhagen who at some point lost his way over the years. He has no command over his unruly and disinterested students and his marriage to Anika (Maria Bonnevie) has been running on fumes for some time now. He has three friends who are also teachers at his workplace and share some of his feelings of insignificance and of an unfulfilling life. Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) teaches physical education, Peter (Lars Ranthe) is a psychology instructor, and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) is a music teacher who conducts the school choir, all of whom deal with an assortment of issues and stressors that find them in something of a life stasis.



One night, as the four men meet for dinner to celebrate Nikolaj’s 40th, Martin initially finds himself the only one abstaining from alcohol since he has driven alone. After some wine and caviar, as well as some ale make the rounds. Martin eventually gives in and partakes of the flowing libations. The subject of study by Finn Skårderund, an obscure Norwegian psychologist, is brought up, who apparently argued that humans would thrive and function better if they had a daily intake of alcohol in their system somewhere around 5%. One of the men mention how well it worked out for Ernest Hemingway and soon they all agree on testing out such a theory.

They approach this experiment like scientists logging in notes and data, as they come up with an implementation plan. Martin purchases a portable breathalyzer and smuggles a bottle of Smirnoff in his messenger bag, soon becoming a much more animated presence to his surprising students. It works for Peter, Nikolaj and Tommy as well, who find similar success as they day drink, finding engagement and connection with their young students easier with some buzz in their system. The question is whether or not the quartet can maintain such a low level of alcohol consumption without anyone noticing or giving in to temptation to up their levels.

It doesn’t take long for those outside of their classroom to notice the change in their behavior. As the men report on their findings of their alcohol odyssey, those close to them can’t help but to notice a difference. Martin’s two sons, Jonas (Magnus Sjørup) and Kasper (Silas Cornelius Van) notice how he is more engaged with his family, as does his wife, Anika. The family goes away for a canoeing camping trip and bond more than they have in years.



However, with four men testing out the same theory, it’s obvious that not all of them will have the same results and soon what they’ve been attempting becomes unmanageable. Martin gradually begins upping his daily intake as do the others as they increase their intake with harder drinks then send them into a downward spiral that reveals some emotional issues for some of them, while leaving the others an absolute mess.

Certain moments are hinted at early on that tell us why it’s probably not a good idea for Martin to partake in such an endeavor. Before the experiment, he was sad, bored and boring, and something had turned off internally, which had left him disconnected and detached. Anika has kept work hours that has kept her away from, but ultimately Martin’s behavior has found her shutting down as well over the years, resulting in a loveless marriage.

Early on in the film, after a meeting (more like an ambush) with his students and their parents (in which they disagree with his teaching methods), Martin asks his wife if he is boring. She doesn’t say that he isn’t, just that he’s not like he was when they first met. Despite some improvements due to his inebriated state, the booze amplifies the anger, pain, and frustration underneath, with Martin’s boys seeing him in a bad way after a severe binge and verbally lashing out at Anika. This unfortunately pushes him to drink even more.



While “Another Round” chiefly focuses on Martin, Lindholm’s screenplay wisely allows room to see how his three friends are fairing with this experiment. Nikolaj and Peter seem to be doing alright initially (although Peter does suggestion an anxious student takes a couple swigs before a pivotal exam to loosen him up), but as their drinking increases, Nikolaj’s wife winds up leaving him with their kids for her sister’s place when his behavior has become too unpredictable and dangerous to be around them. While Tommy (Larsen is a standout as this character) does become a more alert soccer coach as he connects to a shy boy on the team, he is ultimately the one to crack, unintentionally letting his guard down which leaves him unable to hide his drinking from those around him. How each of these men change over the course of the film’s runtime serves as a potent reminder of how their lives were already in need of help, but adding alcohol to the mix emphasized it even more.

It seems like each new Mikkelsen film is touted as “his best yet”, or he’s typically the best in whatever film he’s in. The truth is that he is tyically great, but his role as Martin is really something and Vinterberg and his cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen (who also lensed, “Wendy” and “Shirley” also from this year) know this as much of focus is on Mikkelsen’s face (as if chiseled by the Greek gods) which projects volumes. While the film examines the state of emotional stasis facing some middle-aged men – in this case those who play an extended game of justification just to feel again – Martin has the clearest arch here and Mikkelsen is magnetic, making his work here impossible to forget and some of the year’s best.

This isn’t “Leaving Las Vegas”, but “Another Round” (called “Druk” in Danish, meaning: Drunk) gets into enough of the destructive aspects of alcohol for viewers to get it. More focus is on the emotional destruction and mental recklessness that is heightened by what these four friends embark with their choice of coping mechanisms. Boasting an outstanding cast, led by Mikkelsen, “Another Round” plays it all with a potent degree of realism and, while ending on somewhat of a hopeful note (that showcases Mikkelsen’s mad footwork), that heaviness still lingers.

As the film closes, there is an end-credit dedication to Ida, Vinterberg’s daughter who died in a car accident at the age of 19 last year. Knowing that, it’s easy to imagine the director relating to the weight of Lindholm’s potent story.



RATING: ***1/2



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