Thomas Vinterburg’s Another Round

Alcohol and the culture, customs and traditions surrounding it have permeated society to a saturation point over the years (cinema included), whether we want to admit it or not. I myself am a bit of a self proclaimed lush, and as such I always gravitate towards films that tackle the issue head on, whether the context be cautionary, celebratory, purely unbiased anthropological study or other. Beerfest, Leaving Las Vegas, Flight, Barfly, 28 Days, A Star Is Born. They’re as varied and illuminating as in any sub-genre stable and now we have Thomas Vinterburg’s Another Round, one of the best films of the year and one that manages to do a carefully calibrated dance between comedy and tragedy while showing us the shortcomings, shattered dreams and collective woes of four high school teachers from Denmark, with the focus resting primarily on Mads Mikkelsen’s Martin, an introverted, emotionally stunted man who was perhaps not always this way, but the years have made it so. He and his three buddies decide during a booze soaked night out to follow in the footsteps of an unconventional philosopher who says that any human being will fare better in life with an average of 0.5 blood alcohol level… 24/7. This little experiment proves invigorating at first when each of them finds themselves a little looser, a little more effervescent in both their work and personal lives… until such an endeavour inevitably careens towards a downward spiral, for each in gravely different ways. The thing is, alcohol is a bandaid, not a magic curative elixir for all problems psychological and interpersonal. One can use at first, even at as benign a level as this experiment suggests, but the incremental nature of how it affects our bodies soon takes control and self destruction can be imminent. We see Mikkelsen’s already inert marriage detonate like a dying star, his younger colleague can’t act appropriately around his wife and young children anymore and their older friend seems to suffer from some kind of repressed pain that he and the film are too scared to even unpack, it’s so bad. I don’t want anyone to label this as a ‘midlife crisis’ film because that’s a cheap and patronizing term; anyone at any point in their life can not be okay and their struggles shouldn’t be relegated to labels like that. These are simply four human beings who naively experiment with alcohol and realize that not only will excessive use *not* fix their problems, it will emblazon them further into the forefront of their psyches and force out a fierce reckoning from each, whether they’re ready for it or not. Some are, some aren’t, and that’s the beauty of this narrative. Mikkelsen has never been better, he’s got that observant subtlety we’ve come to know him for but there’s also a vivacity and deepest emotional burn to the work that is a new and mesmerizing formula from him as an artist. Also he’s rocks some dance moves I never expected him to have in a joyous, blessedly cathartic ‘jazz ballet’ sequence near the end that nails the film’s desire to be thoroughly bittersweet but ultimately uplifting. Like the best cocktails, the mixture has to be in utmost equilibrium or the flavour is off. The same can be said for a film that wants to bridge genres or simply evoke multiple complex emotions at once: Another Round is jubilant, compassionate, loving yet doesn’t shy away from the dark, bleak and dysfunctional corners of life, using alcohol as a narrative avatar to unearth what was already there in its human characters. Masterful film.

-Nate Hill

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