🇵🇱 Steve G 🇵🇸’s review published on Letterboxd:
I guess I'm not really qualified to talk about the main crux of Another Round, which is, of course, drinking.
Don't get me wrong, in no way am I stating that boastfully. I'm not someone who has never taken a drink because of an ultra-disciplined, admirable effort to make my body a temple. I am a big fan of chips and cake. It's not because of religious reasons, I'm not sXe, I don't have any moral objections to alcohol. Simply put, I just never liked the taste of it, and I've had a sip of a load of different drinks.
I also say it non-boastfully because if it wasn't for the objection of my taste buds, I'm very sure I would have ended up with a drink problem at some point in my life. I have an addictive personality - I have to very carefully manage my gambling, especially, and I have had issues with one or two other things in my life which have almost run me into problems.
But I also think you don't really have to be a drinker to vibe with what Thomas Vinterberg is going for with Another Round. Like with all his best films, there's far, far more going on under the surface here. It's not just abot four friends playing an elongated drinking game, it's an anxious trip into a domestic and professional quagmire which may have happened anyway, with or without the booze.
It's also extremely bleak - probably even more so than The Hunt and Festen. With all the subjects it touches on, Vinterberg comes to the conclusion that with most things in life, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. Mads Mikkelsen and Lars Ranthe end up deriving more from their jobs during and after their experiment, but it doesn't go that way for Thomas Bo Larsen. Mikkelsen and Magnus Millang are left with severely compromised personal lives.
Despite the seemingly joyous end dance number, there's the feeling that nobody has really gone anywhere. This experiment is just one more avenue in life that has been explored that provides more questions than answers. The kids celebrate just like the four co-leads would have done when they graduated for school - but what lies in their future now?
There's also the sad fact that Mikkelsen's relationship with his wife, a superb Maria Bonnevie, is only revived by Mikkelsen's drinking and my feeling is that it is doomed to fail again. There's a point in this where Mikkelsen stops drinking briefly, takes a weekend away with his family and he's found that happiness and contentment again. But it's obviously not enough for him - he returns to the experiment, with little persuasion, in search of a something that he never really identifies.
It's a shame to see Another Round, even in many of its numerous positive reviews, being referred to as a 'midlife crisis' film because I think it's far more interesting than that. It muses on teaching and its meaningfulness vs its meaninglessness, and where the moral line lies for teachers. Ranthe drives an anxious student to success but only through suggesting he take a drink before his exam.
It's also got a very strong friendship message running through it without ever shying away from the possibility that there is toxicity at play here. Just how well do his three friends know him to push Bo Larsen into a 'game' that he ultimately does not survive? Clearly depressed and struggling to cope in the aftermath of a failed relationship / marriage, his friends may visibly mourn his passing, but just how culpable are they in that? Then they commemorate him with a drink.
I felt where Another Round was at its strongest was with Vinterberg suggesting that the lessening or absence of toxic masculinity not being enough when it comes to male behaviour. The first restaurant scene, which is incredibly acted by Mikkelsen especially, is key here. Vinterberg seems to be suggesting that it's all well and good that Mikkelsen can be openly emotional and be so in front of his friends. It's some progression, right? But why can't he be like this with his family, or perhaps even his students?
This is quintessential Vinterberg, really. He questions so much and raises so many ideas while also grasping the correct belief that not everything has to be answered. He also garners such a spectrum of responses to his best work, even among those who broadly share the same opinion on its quality, or the respective quality of particular titles. To me, this was an affecting, bleak and pessimistic work, but one that was entirely necessary. Not to mention startlingly good, of course.