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‘Another Round’: A brilliant exploration of a midlife crisis

| Thursday, April 1, 2021

Maggie Klaers | The Observer

“Another Round” is the latest film from writer/director and Dogme 95 co-founder Thomas Vinterberg. The film handles addiction in a manner that is more akin to “Trainspotting” than “Requiem for a Dream,” and falls firmly within the realm of dramedy and tragicomedy.

“Another Round” centers on a group of high school teachers who all decide to maintain a 0.05% BAC as part of an experiment to see how it improves their performance in their social lives and at work. The rules are simple: They can only drink during the workday.

This experiment comes as the result of a collective midlife crisis shared by all four friends, who are weary of the mundanity of their teaching jobs. The audience follows Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), a disillusioned history teacher, as he breaks out of his slump and seems to find joy in life once again. Of course, this high point cannot last forever, and we watch as Martin and his friends begin to struggle with the effects of increased alcohol consumption as they start to drink more and more — well exceeding a 0.05% BAC — which causes things in both their work and personal lives to get a bit messy.

Vinterberg manages to walk a fine line with “Another Round,” providing just enough comedic elements to keep the audience from being dragged down by the film’s dour subject matter while also managing to keep the film from feeling like a cartoonish farce. This balance gives the film a strangely life-affirming tone that feels akin to Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting.” Much like Renton, Martin chooses life — or at least some form of it. The film’s ending is joyous, leaving the audience with a strangely warm feeling. The future is uncertain, but Martin and his friends have found a spark, a reason to keep going. The film ends with Martin mid-air, a choice that leaves the audience riding the same high he is, and for a moment just before the film cuts to black, nothing matters. Nothing can bring Martin down. What will become of Martin and his friends? I don’t think it matters, and it seems Vinterberg doesn’t either.

Cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s talents are put on full display, imbuing the film with a sense of tipsiness that matches the characters’ levels of intoxication throughout the film. This is perhaps best exemplified in a scene near the beginning of the experiment in which Martin teaches a class after having a drink. He engages with the class and brings a vibrance — a touch of liveliness — to his senior history class. The students love it, and Martin displays a laidback charisma that we had not previously seen. While Mikkelsen’s performance is great, it’s the cinematography that brings this scene to life. The camera doesn’t simply move; it swoops in and out of close-ups in unpredictable ways, imbuing the entire scene with the same sense of vitality that Martin feels.

I found Mikkelsen’s performance to be my favorite aspect of the film. He was a perfect casting pick for “Another Round,” providing a captivating performance and demanding the audience’s attention without being over the top. Despite all the film’s shenanigans, Mikkelsen’s performance never comes off as ingenuine, and everything he does seems believable.

“Another Round” is currently up for Oscars in two categories: Best Directing and Best International Feature, so be sure to check it out before the big night rolls around. I promise it’s worth your time — if only to see Mads Mikkelsen perform a jazz ballet dance.

 

Title: “Another Round”

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe

Genre: Drama, Comedy

If you liked: “Trainspotting,” “Barfly”

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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