Another Round

Another Round ★★★★

Ual… I wish these guys were my teachers!

Part cautionary tale over inherent vices capable of elevating the human senses within a painful existence, part hang-out buddy movie delivering an ode to friendship and life, all but genuine in its intentions, as also head open for countless heartless individuals to fall all over its limitations by taking it as just a cheap Oscar-buzz ‘dramedy’. With most taking its thematic elements of middle age crisis and reinforcing the necessity of drinking with moderation, as being 'privileged problems', not to say the already exhaustingly derivative “white people problems”.

Which more translates as self-help dealing with alcohol in life, and some have decided to see this as the putrid and conventional sobriety that rules the film as a melancholy and manipulative farce. Made even worse by the way the film follows a very linear course of predictability in a conventional comedy structure that follows the basic path of: rise of the central idea, fall of consequences and human redemption of its real defended values.

And yes Thomas Vinterberg is definitely no visionary author by any means, even though some of his major critics seem to demand for him to be, while his real strengths really lie on the level of humanity he can pack while maintaining a seamless realistic un-Hollywoodized look, and you get that exact same thing yet again with Another Round in one of his better and most inspired states of his career so far, exactly because it plays sincerely even within its limitations and let’s its captivating energy to enthrall us continuously through the film through laughs and broken hearts!

It's definitely a showcase of what this movie manages to have as an appeal within a plot that sounds conceptually interesting at best, involving high school teachers having a midlife crisis, living in boredom and frustration with life that leaves them in an existential emptiness of their own being, which starts with its central protagonist Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), disheartened by life, distanced from everything from his work to his family, except his friends, for no apparent reason, perhaps a feeling of lost youth, untapped moments, individual frustrations, the very own state of mind from Vinterberg himself going into the film, or from the audience itself and invites you into immersing in the story through that universal feeling of needing to be numb to withstand reality.

That takes the film from this apparent real theory that comes from psychiatrist Finn Skårderud stating that humans are born with a blood alcohol content (BAC) deficiency of 0.05%, and that being at 0.05% makes one more creative and relaxed, and the characters decide to put it to test as scientific means of course, but also aiding their own current state of mind in the process. Hilariously emphasizing the historical figures who got drunk more than the old men on the corner of my neighborhood!

It’s as silly but enjoyable to watch it unfold, and the movie follows that logic managing to go from the gut busting hilarious sequence inside the market and fishing cod, playing with the predictable but infallible drunk humor, to the sad depressing harsh miserable state that they find themselves in their personal lives, where it can make you going feeling incredibly apprehensive when the consequences come knocking them cold, but also make you open a huge smile throughout each of their little success of their theory.

As it also works and mostly plays like one of those movies that involve cooking that leave you feeling hungry while watching with such beauty in gastronomic art, but with drinking, minus the art part, and more sexier, making you want drink some vodka and some wine afterwards for how cool they made it look to be, much like Payne’s Sideways, minus the elegancy and the at times screwball comedy. Everything here feels extremely natural and real, as it’s the case with Vinterberg’s films, personal and realism are the words of the day on set, and like real life, good and bad exist in our actions and consumptions, so the same is presented with the alcohol, the positive and negative!

It isn’t about drinking itself nor discourages over consumption, but without judging anyone who does. Is not trying to be moralist nor the other way around in cheap lessons, it comes out sincere like a pat on the shoulder from a friend, and that’s kind of what this movie is above the rest too right?! A movie about embracing everyone, friends that we hold dear and value their presence, hear what they can teach us and add to our lives. Forming an embrace between generations teaching one another, teachers and students forming heartwarming bonds, helping one another and accept each other’s failures without judgments!

If it sounds cheesy enough, well this movie ain’t for you, but all its contagious level of humanism comes from a deep personal place from Vinterberg himself, right after losing his own daughter prior to the shooting of the film, Ida, leading him to a deal with grief through the making of the film itself, getting partially filmed in her classroom with her real classmates, not only adding to the extreme naturalness permutated in the film.

As it serves as a dichotomy of enthusiastic and lively free-spirited youth, who will eventually become tired and depressed old men in regrets like their teachers, but uses this as a way of persuasion to see the best and not the easy cynicism of the entire thing, with a glance of nostalgic and full of heart amidst a huge melancholia that it trespasses through the film, trying to hit this modern state of grievance towards everything that this guys can’t stop escaping of moaning, trapped in their frustration that holds them in time, lamenting what once was and never will be.

And where Vinterberg performs his expurgation to tell these people that life goes beyond all of what’s left behind, that it’s not too late for anything, we still have time to make something that matters, something that to be remembered by, by those we love and hold dear and see and feel us in the same way. It isn’t dealing with problems arising from privileged origins, rather and simply universal factors.

Aided by the cast it's a gem in itself: Thomas Bo Larsen goes beyond the well-functioning comic relief, to become what is basically the heart of the movie, the one that sits right in the middle between addiction and pleasure, a wretch you come to love like a friend and see his soul pure and good under a veil so frayed and broken; Magnus Millang is the most inquisitive and geeky of the bunch, wanting to push the boundaries for what they're going for, and he's also a lot of fun, with a priceless key scene; Lars Ranthe is for the most part very subdued, but showing a huge heart by the end and you equally love him as the rest of the group.

But of course is Mikkelsen that dominates everything as usual, carrying all of it with his amazing subtlety and strong demeanor that always draws the eye, saying so much so little and his smallest tear coming out is already heart breaking because of his so secure persona gets broken is immediately saddening, just as it is gloriously gratifying seeing him blossoming in inspiration and cheer, the same feeling that the film leaves off by the end in what’s maybe one of the most cathartically beautiful ending scenes ever?! Suffice to say that final dancing sequence already born iconic!

Specially given our current time frame on which this was released in and what it tries to tell its audience through a simple personal story with a with a resounding reach, to embrace existence no matter how miserable it may feel at times; to allow ourselves to break our grudge with life, for the benefit, not only of us, but of others as well; to get inspired so that you can inspire others; to open up, yourself, your life, your ideas and behavior, don't limit yourself, just live with an open face ready for a slap but also a kiss!

I mean…what a life and what a beautiful beautiful ride it is!

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