Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang and Lars Ranthe
Following Parasite was going to be hard for any Best International Film winner at the Oscars, but there is no denying that Another Round, or Druk in Danish, deserves that honour. Thomas Vinterberg has created a thought provoking, harrowing and at the same time funny film. This is partly due to the death of his daughter, Ida, a few days into shooting the film. She was originally going to co-star. Instead of scrapping the idea, the script was re-worked, and the film is dedicated to her. The effects of the life-shattering events are felt in the film with a very dark sombre tone for large sections and through this Another Round is a celebration of life.
Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal, Casino Royale, Rogue One) plays Martin, a middle-aged schoolteacher who is struggling with life, his students aren’t paying attention, his family seem not to notice him. Life is flashing by. At the 40th birthday of one of Martin’s friends, the small group of 4 that make up the main cast discuss an idea by Finn Skårderud that humans should have a blood alcohol content of 0.05. It would make people more relaxed, creative and engaged. Hearing this Martin tries it out, and after seeing success the rest of the group join in, deciding to take notes to investigate the theory. They set rules, drink like Hemmingway. Meaning not past 8pm and not on the weekends. As you’d expect, little by little things start to get out of hand.
This is a dark film with some very funny comedic light moments. It’s dealing with mid-life crisis, loss, missed opportunities. It’s poignant and thought provoking, while at the same time funny and life-affirming. There’s a funny sequence, where the group are late to buy fresh cod, so they end up trying to catch it in the harbour, without much success. Underneath their drunken antics is a heavy subtone. They are drinking to escape who they’ve become and the life they’ve created for themselves. You can see their control slipping and the effects it has on their loved ones starts to show. What starts off as an experiment ends up taking a high cost.
All four leads are fantastic and spellbinding. There are too many films where people are obviously acting drunk. Here it’s hard to believe they weren’t drunk on set. Their performances, especially Mikkelsen’s, is subtle and full of nuance. Small gestures and facial expressions carry everything. It’s through the powerful performances that the film explores binge-drinking. It starts with the positive impact and light-heartedness before diving into heavier drinking and addiction. Their great performances carry the weight of a tough subject. Vinterberg expertly directs the group and makes the party sequences feel real and authentic. Every shot feels like we’ve dropped in mid-party. It doesn’t look artificial at all. When things start to get too much the camera effects, with a pulsating darkness around the edges, punctuates the story telling you everything you need to know.
Another Round isn’t perfect though. While we do get to see the effects, their experiment gone too far had on their lives and loved ones, it isn’t explored enough. We don’t get to truly see how the mothers must deal with their husband’s borderline alcoholism. It’s hinted at and played with, but the long-lasting effects aren’t there. For the most part 3 of the group are let off lightly. They are known to drink at the school they work at and it’s kind of brushed under the rug as one takes the fall for the others. It’s not a big flaw and is easy to ignore while you are dragged into the mesmerising and intoxicating performances (pun intended).
Bookended by one hell of a catchy pop song, What a Life by Scarlet Pleasure, Another Round is a captivating story that deals with addiction and drunkenness. It’s elevated from just being a comedy by a dark tone that is felt throughout and amazing performances by the main cast. This is a really great film and it deserves all the praise it is currently getting. There is news of an American remake, with Leonardo DiCaprio taking the main role. Hopefully this brings the story to a wider audience and doesn’t fall flat like so many remakes.