Another Round

Another Round ★★★½

Hell of a film to mark three months of sobriety with (doesn’t seem like much, I know, but it’s a miracle given where I was). 

As a massive fan of Thomas Vinterberg and Mads Mikkelsen, and especially of them together (viva The Hunt, a brilliant horror story about groupthink), I intentionally went into this blind and was rewarded by another thoughtful, engaging, honestly quite brave dissection of another social contract: specifically, our society’s complicated but remarkably toxic relationship with alcohol.

It’s literally poison, alcohol, and most of us ingest it daily; marketed en masse by countless mega corporations, adorning endless billboards and commercials, it functions as a lubricant for every social situation, whether to calm nerves, reduce inhibitions, gain acceptance, make friends, or merely serve as a conduit to human connection.

Questioning this is the quickest way to be dismissed as a scold or a narc, someone not to invite to functions or, even worse, an enemy of fun. If you think about it, alcohol is the no. 1-most insidiously effective branding success in human history; despite it destroying countless lives and sickening almost all of us to a lethal degree at one point or another, it’s stocked on store shelves, centralized in near-every cultural celebration or rite of passage, glamorized in all our artistic reflections of what it means to move through the world in the correct fashion. 

Another Round is fascinating about this in how it questions our relationships with alcohol without exclusively condemning it; we understand drinking culture as a haven of good fellows, see how chemically lowered inhibitions can enliven the spirit and wring excitement in a dreary mundanity. Its use to break down barriers is a more positive incarnation of its ability to blur cognizance. But the film depicts the soul-sickness alcoholics talk about with staggering accuracy: the gradual confusion and horror, the disbelief, the piss-stained patchwork cloth of your hungover brain, and the deeper, scarier understanding that you are on the wrong path and you’re not sure how long ago you got on it.

I’ve seen others say that Another Round adopts the attitude that drinking can be great in moderation but that not asking too much of it is essential to remaining healthy, that you can slip and lose your footing. I’d counter that what it’s really saying is that we’re not wired that way, to know our limits, to accept when you desire too much, and that alcohol is dangled in front of our noses like bait on a line despite none of us benefitting in the long run from taking it. 

The film’s a bit straightforward, especially visually, and I felt like Mikkelsen’s character was a little too blank in places, but there’s something also tragic and thrilling about watching him play someone this unlikable but human. The final half hour is the best, such a smart and melancholy place to take this story, and such an entertaining last scene. A real dance apocalypse moment.

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