Four boring Danish teachers try day-drinking as a path out of their funks.
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Starring Mads Mikkelson, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, and Magnus Millang
Review by Jon Kissel
While the film ultimately contains a death and some heated marital arguments, the toughest segments of Another Round precede the film’s inciting incident. This is a painful picture of anti-charisma and deadened personalities amongst the main quartet. All are teachers and all have either checked out or have lost an ability to communicate anything approaching passion for their work. This is true for each of them, but especially so for Martin. Disrespected justifiably at school for being a rote and boring instructor of history and ignored at home, Martin is a zombie where he used to be a vivacious dancer before age and boredom caught up with him. As long as we’re assigning stereotypes to white male subsets, his emotional breakdown in front of his male friends is almost as terrifying as false molestation accusations for the repressed midwestern American dude who’d rather talk about his gutters than his inner life. Mikkelson, perhaps the most interesting-looking man in filmmaking and the best version of Hannibal Lecter ever put to screen, deserves a lot of credit that he can so fully make the transformation into this sad-sack, and Another Round is loaded with example after example of his mastery of his craft.
Martin shares significant screentime with his fellows, and each embodies a facet of drinking that sells alcohol’s continued utility. Martin finds the energy to make history come alive for his students and finds his courage at home, breaking out of a self-recriminating cycle that he’s not worthy of attention in either sphere. Tommy’s focus narrows, such that he can find the excitement in coaching a youth soccer team and do it well. Nikolaj becomes more romantic, which helps him connect with his class as a music teacher. By thoughtfully deconstructing why people drink in the first place, Another Round finds no fault in its characters’ experiment at these early stages, and if they continued at this low level, they could conceivably have joined the mid-movie montage of drunk world leaders functioning on a grand stage despite their chemical impairment. However, the film stumbles when they arbitrarily up the concentrations and it becomes a less-interesting public service announcement. All the expected consequences of marital discord, physical injury, lost memory, and dependency arise, consequences that didn’t stop me from grabbing a sixer on the way home from seeing the movie but exist in a scolding manner nonetheless.
Even with a turn towards the maudlin, Another Round takes place against a backdrop of youthful energy and that’s what wins out as the film reaches its joyous conclusion. The four main characters, surrounded by vigor and possibility, are being pushed farther into their funks by constantly seeing examples of what they are not. Connecting to that part of oneself that’s energetic and passionate and resistant to grinding down requires a level of self-knowledge similar to the kind that knows when to drink and when not to drink. The men of Another Round have enough self-knowledge to know that they’re being bad teachers and husbands and fathers, but not enough to imagine a solution that goes beyond the irresponsible, as enticing as it may be. There’s a sense that, going forward, the surviving men will have learned something, even if it requires the unearned forgiveness from the undervalued character of Martin’s wife (Maria Bonnevie). Vinterberg scores for his countrymen and their exalted geographic features per the national anthem of Denmark, a place where the Viking and the dour monotone exist side-by-side within the same consciousness. B+