LFF REVIEW: ‘Another Round’ (2020) Fails to Say Anything New or Meaningful

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“The performances definitely outclass the story being told”

Director Thomas Vinterburg once again teams up with Mads Mikkelsen for this Danish-Swedish film about midlife-crises, friendship and alcohol. Lots of alcohol. It carefully treads the line between comedy and drama, which brings out one of Mikkelsen’s best performances yet, but ultimately Another Round fails to say anything new with themes explored countless times on screen.

Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is a shell of a person: a high school teacher who delivers boring lessons and a man disconnected from his wife and two sons. His friends even call him out for needing some self-confidence and joy in his life. Those same friends, all teachers at Martin’s school, mention real-life psychiatrist  Finn Skarderud’s theory: that humans are born with an alcohol deficit of 0.05% in their blood and that people should drink to that level in order to function better and be happy. Martin sees the immediate effects of delivering lessons after a drink and so the four friends agree to conduct their own experiment on becoming high-functioning drinkers. Alcoholism has long been a topic in film, and it seems at the beginning that Vinterburg has an interesting concept to make some fresh comments on our relationship with alcohol. As a history teacher Martin begins to reference world leaders, such as Churchill, and their achievements whilst being heavy drinkers. At one point there is a montage featuring stock footage of famed leaders wasted in public but that is as far as the film goes with that particular critique – specifically, it would have been great to see even the smallest commentary on Churchill.

Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), in a dark suit, sits on a bench whilst students in white graduation outfits mingle behind him. From 'Another Round'
Image courtesy of Nordisk Film

The gang drink more and immediately see results in the classroom and at home – engaging with their students more as well as their families. It’s absurdly comedic to see the immediate effects after taking a swig from a bottle, and hilarious when watching the four teachers having a massive bender and acting like under-age lunatics. The entire cast is great, but this is Mikkelsen’s show. It is always a delight to see him play someone other than some sort of antagonist, and Another Round shows off the range he has. Martin starts out quiet and empty but clearly with trouble on his mind and slowly, gradually becomes looser as the self-destructive experiment goes on. It is all in Mikkelsen’s eyes, which we see in plenty of close-up shots: the sadness of his midlife crisis, the glee of holding the attention of a class and the need of another drink. The performances definitely outclass the story being told.

Predictably, things go south for the characters as they lose relationships and status’ they each longed for in the first place. Another Round is an engaging look at alcoholism and addiction, but it fails to say anything meaningful about those issues. Audiences know that abusing alcohol is bad, that some people learn from their mistakes or don’t, but this is all the film has to say. It could be argued that the ending could be read in different ways, but the character arcs are frustratingly predictable and end up in unsatisfying places.

With the concept of the plot and Mikkelsen in the lead I was expecting much more, but unfortunately Another Round goes through familiar themes without adding anything new to the table. It still makes for an entertaining watch, but it is hard to shake off the feeling that this could have been so much more. I don’t need a drink dear reader… just more scenes of Mads Mikkelsen performing jazz ballet.

Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg

Written by: Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg

Produced by: Sisse Graum Jorgensen and Kasper Dissing

Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang, Maria Bonnevie

Available: In cinemas from November 20th 2020

Header image courtesy of Nordisk Film