Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and God Hates Geeks.
Dance Like Only Mads Mikkelsen Is Watching
The Danish-Swedish comedic drama Another Round reunites lead actor Mads Mikkelsen with director Thomas Vinterberg and co-writer Tobias Lindholm. The three of them, along with supporting actor Thomas Bo Larsen, all collaborated on the 2012 drama The Hunt. The Hunt is similar to Another Round in nature since it's also about a teacher being involved with inappropriate behavior. The drama aspect is amplified in The Hunt while Another Round is a bit more comedic in comparison.
Martin (Mikkelsen) has lost all interest in life. His marriage has hit a standstill, his two sons bore him, and Martin is disinterested, to say the least, when it comes to his career as a high school history teacher. Martin isn’t staying focused during his lessons and his students hold an intervention to let him know it’s impossible to pass his exams if his lessons are filled with nonsensical rambling.
Martin has been best friends with three other people on the staff for as long as he can remember. Peter (Lars Ranthe), the psychology professor, Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), the band/orchestra teacher, and Tommy (Bo Larsen), the soccer coach/PE teacher. Inspired by the hypothesis of a Danish philosopher named Skarderud, Martin and his friends decide to try to have a blood alcohol level of 0.05% throughout most of the day with no drinking after 8pm or on the weekends. The results are both tremendous and terrifying.
When Another Round first begins, the concept is that they drink just enough to loosen up and hopefully find the passion in both their work and their relationships again. Martin and his friends aren’t young anymore, but they’re right in between that age of being considered middle aged. It’s an experiment that is obviously going to be disastrous from the start, but the way that events unfold in the film keep the audience fascinated for a solid two hours.
All four men have reasons for taking part in the experiment with two of them being single and not really having anything to lose, Martin coasting through a dead marriage, and Peter is overwhelmed with two young boys and a newborn. The introduction of alcohol is an exciting and unpredictable element. Too much will ruin them, but just the right amount gives them a rejuvenated sense of life.
The issue is that Martin and his friends keep increasing their alcohol intake. It begins as a rush, but steadily snowballs into alcoholism. The four men are almost caught on a couple occasions and try to give it up when things get really bad, but one of them is unable to stop drinking and becomes dependent on alcohol because of his newfound addiction.
The film touches on what it’s like to be stuck in a rut of the same routine for years. Day in and day out, these men have taught seniors on the verge of graduation for an incredibly long time. While drinking during working hours is likely considered sabotaging your career it also brings self-confidence and joy back into their everyday lives.
The opening of Another Round kicks off with a large group of high school students drinking to the point of oblivion while roaming around town and causing all sorts of mayhem. The students seem to drink because they’re young, stupid, and don’t know how to moderate themselves. Martin and his friends drink to erase the monotony that their lives have become.
The performances in the film mostly ride on Martin and his four friends. They’re certainly believable as four guys who have known each other for a long time, but Mads Mikkelsen and Thomas Bo Larsen seem to have more chemistry and spend more time together than the others. Bo Larsen’s character, Tommy, is mostly broken and only has his dog and his soccer kids to look forward to outside of work. He latches onto alcohol as a crutch even though Martin is attempting to encourage him otherwise.
Thomas Vinterberg has crafted another incredibly mesmerizing film around the unexpected troubles one might face as a teacher. Another Round is a short fuse of a drama centered on a bad idea. You know that inevitable and combustible explosion will happen any moment, but watching until it finally does is the mastery of the concept.
Mads Mikkelsen’s performance is poignant in a subtle kind of way. You sympathize with the character, but also want to scold him for such idiotic decisions. Another Round is a riveting train wreck of a comedic drama that you can’t wait to see derail.
© 2020 Chris Sawin