At the end of a rather gloomy year, you’ll be hard pressed to find a final image more rewarding and inspiring than Mads Mikkelsen dancing in a haze of champagne. In ANOTHER ROUND, now playing in our Virtual Movie Palace, director Thomas Vinterberg rewards us with this scene in a film that reaffirms the gift of life, while acknowledging the hardships and tragedies that it inevitably comes with.
The film focuses on four high school teachers who have felt their lives turning stale, so they decide to test a theory from psychiatrist Finn Skårderud that the human body is born with a .05% alcohol deficiency. The four begin drinking to maintain a constant buzz, and when they compare their findings, they collectively agree that the theory holds substance. They witness themselves, and each other, come alive in the workplace and so, of course, they push the limits—until, as you might expect, the theory unravels as they go harder and harder.
The plot’s arc becomes a bit predictable, as alcoholism looms over these characters unaware of its threatening presence. Eventually, their lives show cracks and crumble, as their flaws are exacerbated under a drunken haze. But Vinterberg, who also wrote the screenplay with Tobias Lindholm, is less interested in teaching a lesson about addiction than exploring who the characters are in their inebriated states. In these scenes, filmed with erratic camerawork and a filtered “beer goggle” lens, we see how they begin to come dangerously to terms with their lives in middle age.
Mikkelsen, known for his villainous roles in Casino Royale and TV’s Hannibal, shows off a more empathetic and fragile side as a character who finds himself disconnected from his wife and powerless over his students who are pressuring him to prepare them for university exams. After a few pulls from the bottle, his classroom finds the light and energy he’s been looking for, and we see him reacquaint himself with his family, finding what seems to be the real happiness he’s been searching for. But of course, this happiness is merely a thin veneer that has been waxed over his perception.
ANOTHER ROUND is a film about being aware of your flaws and your vices, and learning to live with them, rather than to mask or shun them. It’s a film about being comfortable with yourself and owning your weaknesses to overpower them. And most importantly, it’s a film about forgiveness, both in yourself and toward others. This acceptance shows in the film’s conclusion, where Mikkelsen’s trained abilities as a dancer provide a firework show in the finale
Even as their drinking gets dangerously out of hand, this is not a film that will judge you if you decide to make yourself a cocktail while you watch it. Rather the contrary. There are some appealing moments that glowingly illustrate the construction of a cocktail at the hand of four men who are obviously succumbing to a psychological illness. But the film portrays alcohol as a means of empowerment, rather than a way to happiness itself.
Speaking of cocktails, I hope to see you on New Years Eve for our Virtual Trivia/Cocktail Cinema crossover event at 7:00 PM. Until then, enjoy the film, have a happy holiday, and thank you for supporting our Virtual Movie Palace this year.