Glass Half Full

An excellent Danish film looks at the power of positive drinking

Film by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Another Round
VOD, Friday 18

4 out of 5

I’m always baffled that Danish movies consistently push the envelope while Canada gets, uh, Target Number One. Denmark and Canada have similar government agencies supporting filmmaking. What gives? Probably the fact most of our talent emigrates to the U.S. while Denmark nurtures the likes of Lars Von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg and Susanne Bier, veritable forces in contemporary cinema, at home. (Xavier Dolan, you say? He probably needs less nurturing.)

The Danish formula, if there is one, is simple: take an important current issue, find a new angle. That’s how you get something like Another Round, a well-rounded drama by Vinterberg about day-drinking and the misery it addresses. Here’s the twist: the film doesn’t denounce it. In fact, Another Round celebrates alcohol-driven joy while acknowledging its risks.

Friend of the magazine (and new Grindelwald) Mads Mikkelsen stars as Martin, a sad-sack history schoolteacher increasingly alienated from his family. At a low ebb, he attends a birthday dinner with three other colleagues from the same high school. There the educators discuss the theories of Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud (stay with me), who believes humans are at their most creative and sharp by sustaining a 0.05 blood alcohol content.

Anxious to get his groove back, Martin decides to test the theory under the guise of research, and soon the other teachers join the experiment. Early success leads to the proverbial slippery slope, and even when they decide to stop their choices have long-lasting consequences.

While the film is about social drinking on the surface, Another Round is really about midlife crisis and taking stock on one’s achievements (or lack thereof). Each one of the educators face their lot in life and their alcohol dependence is proportional to what they find.

Another Round is great at creating little moments that reverberate beyond the overarching plot. Early on, we see Martin confronted by helicopter parents upset he’s not putting in more of an effort to prepare their kids for exams. Mikkelsen is glorious in the sequence: he’s simultaneously trying to appease the moms and dads while dying on the inside. The ending is another beauty. I won’t spoil it but the mix of unbridled joy and piercing sadness — plus the dulcet tones of Scarlet Pleasure’s “What a Life” — make for an exhilarating cocktail.

If you ever had problems identifying good direction, Another Round works as a primer. Writer/director Thomas Vinterberg — whose previous collaboration with Mikkelsen was the unnerving The Hunt — manages the actors’ intoxication flawlessly. The lack of judgement also feels rare — we get to see both sides and some pretty sturdy arguments in favour (Churchill beat the Germans and Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea while on the sauce) and against (countless lives destroyed).

No matter what side of the better-living-through-inebriation issue you find yourself on, Another Round is as absorbing as is thought-provoking and will probably make an appearance in my top 10 in this tragic, absurd year. Cheers.