Another Round

Another Round ★★★★½

Another Round is Danish director Thomas Winterberg's second collaboration with Mads Mikkelsen, almost a decade on from 2012's harrowing The Hunt; in which Mikkelsen also played a teacher (in that case one accused of sexual abuse in an insular smalltown community). Tragedy surrounds the production, as Winterberg's daughter was cast but died during filming, after which the concept was retooled by Winterberg and co-writer Tobias Lindholm to make the film more uplifting. The story follows a group of middle-aged teachers (Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, and Lars Ranthe) who decide to maintain a certain level of alcohol inebriation, after encountering the theory that a degree of intoxication is humanity's natural and ideal state. The film is comical and queasy, a thought-provoking grapple with the pleasures and hazards of alcohol. It refrains from panegyric or polemic, capturing the allure of the bottle with a distinctive tone.

Mikkelsen plays Martin, a dissatisfied, unassertive teacher. We sense his ennui through the strained relationships with his wife (Maria Bonnevie) and two uncommunicative teenage sons, and the dull history lessons that he delivers to hostile schoolchildren. The early part of the film is sombre, and Mikkelsen is immediately sympathetic. Vinterberg has a deft visual style, in the ostentatious way we transition into typography or a montage of historical drinkers, but also in the smaller moments. When Martin has his first drink, at a restaurant, warmth and colour enters the film almost palpably. Later, though, the rocking camera and glaring lights remind us that we are teetering on the edge of a loss of control. In this way, Another Round conjures the precarious magic of drinking in a dazzlingly engrossing way.

Constant alcohol helps Martin be more at ease with himself, and he becomes a charming husband and passionate teacher. There is an enduring sense that things might unravel, as the men escalate their drinking after initial success, and Mikkelsen gives a triumphant performance. His ability to convey timidity and sadness through a look, early on, make his transformation a pleasure to see. His relationships with his friends, who are all in their own ways disaffected with the realities of middle age, are touching and supportive. There is an innocence to watching them drunkenly fish or sing along in a raucous bar, and the mingling of these scenes with the darkness of overconsumption makes for a uniquely open-minded exploration of what alcohol represents, gives, and takes. In the end Another Round is about coming to terms with life, and it is an original and profound experience.

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