Another Round (2020; Thomas Vinterberg)
By Daniel Barnes
*Now playing in select theaters and on VOD services.
Dogme 95 refugee Thomas Vinterberg (The Commune and Far from the Madding Crowd) reunites with The Hunt star Mads Mikkelsen for this alcohol-soaked, coming-of-middle-age drama. Mikkelsen excels as Martin, a depressed high school teacher who tries to turn his life around through experimental alcoholism.
At work, Martin is just one of many bored and uninspired teachers dealing with pathetic students and demanding parents. Meanwhile, back at home, Martin’s wife and teenage kids could care less about his simmering midlife crisis.
During a drunken 40th birthday dinner, Martin and his colleagues hatch a plan to improve their productivity through persistent tipsiness. Of course, it’s all a philosophical and intellectual smokescreen to excuse their alcoholism, as they use Breathalyzers to monitor and maintain blood alcohol content. They define sneaking drinks in the school bathroom as “collecting evidence,” agreeing not to imbibe late at night or on weekends, “like Hemingway.”
Initially, the teachers become more engaged with their students and families. “I haven’t felt this good in ages,” marvels Martin, while Vinterberg treats us to a montage of drunk world leaders. We see all drinking modes in Another Round, from depressed to festive to utilitarian (one teacher advises an anxious student to drink before tests). But as the experimenters continuously raise their minimum BAC, it’s only a matter of time before catastrophe strikes.
Another Round opens with a booze-fueled teenage rampage, and that energy persists through the ironically joyous finale. Some of the story beats feel a little forced, especially a telegraphed third-act tragedy. However, Mikkelsen is consistently engrossing, and he even gets to show off his dancing chops in the final scene.