Another Round takes one of those premises seemingly tailor-made for a logline - four middle-aged Danish teachers and friends decide to test psychiatrist Finn Skårderud’s theory that humans are born with a .05 blood alcohol deficit - and turns it into something at once magical and aching, rib-cracking and heart-breaking, full of thought yet indecisive.
Mads Mikkelsen is Martin: a middle-aged history teacher rotting from the inside out. After a night full of the lowest form of conversation (“remember when?”), Martin’s quartet of aging teachers decide to inject their professional and personal lives with a consistent buzz. Specifically, they use Skårderud’s theory as pretext to stay slightly drunk from sunrise to sundown.
Thomas Vinterberg’s 12th feature film brilliantly tracks the rip-roaring psychological journey found in the bottle: anticipation, contentment, elation, despair, mourning, and, finally, one way or another, freedom. But Another Round is much more than a cautionary tale. Though things eventually go awry for the four friends, Vinterberg has no interest in condemning alcohol consumption, nor in valorizing it. Instead the film shows the highs next to the lows, like a sundial catching the sun at each phase of its journey, giving us a deeply-felt story of grey-haired immaturity and nostalgic loss of inhibition.
Mikkelson’s craggy performance is rightly earning praise, but it’s Thomas Bo Larsen who elevates Another Round, threatening to burst the film’s heart right out of its chest with his quiet, convincing turn as Tommy, the friend who treats the exercise least like a game. Larsen is two decades removed from winning a pair of Robert Awards (the Danish equivalent of the Oscars) for roles in two early Vinterberg films, but he hasn’t lost a step. In a late-film scene opposite Mikkelson, the actor encapsulates a melancholy resignation, holding Martin with a deep stare and a half-smile, a strange, alluring combination of haunting and playful. It’s one of the finest scenes of the year.
And it encapsulates the meaning and mythology behind the film, and behind many of our relationships with alcohol. Another Round understands that this relationship can’t be explained, and it doesn’t try; it just holds up a warped funhouse mirror to any audience member who has ever had one drink too many. With interstitial titles flitting across the screen and a freeze frame final moment for the ages, it’s a singular cinematic experience. I highly recommend it.