Another Round: Mads Mikkelsen's Drunk, Danish Drama
When I sat down to watch Another Round—a 2020 Danish movie directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring Mads Mikkelsen—I knew three things about the movie.
It’s about four high school teachers who attempt to improve their drab lives by maintaining a constant .05 blood alcohol content.
Its final scene has been labeled one of the best cinematic moments of 2020.
Amazon Prime has it categorized under three genres: arthouse, drama, and comedy.
So, under the impression that I was about to watch a funny movie about drunk high school teachers, I poured a drink in salute to the subject matter and sat down to watch Another Round. An hour and a half and three-quarters of the movie later, not only had I barely laughed, but I was also regarding the unfinished drink on my table with distaste and doubt. Why?
Because despite what Amazon Prime might say, Another Round is not a dark comedy, black comedy, or any type of comedy at all. It is a somber drama surrounding themes of mid-life crisis, the passing of youth, and losing enthusiasm for life. It was also one of the best movies I have seen in the past year.
In Another Round, Mads Mikkelsen plays a high school history teacher named Martin who is shrouded in an intense aura of melancholic apathy. He teaches his classes, talks to his wife, lectures his children, and hangs out with his friends all with a complete absence of enthusiasm. The phrase “just going through the motions” has never found a better application than the life of Martin.
The solution to this grey, joyless existence? Martin and three of his fellow high school teachers Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Nikolaj (Magnus Millange), and Peter (Lars Ranthe), decide to try and maintain a constant .05 BAC, an experiment based on the ideology of Norwegian philosopher Finn Skarderund (who really did propose this idea would improve the quality of life). Immediately the three men’s lives improve. Martin teaches with enthusiasm and reconnects with his wife, Tommy becomes a better soccer coach, Nikolaj teaches his music students how to sing with feeling and soul, and Peter seems happier. Cue Fetch the Bolt Cutters.
Of course, that’s only the beginning of the film. To spoil the rest would be a crime, so all I’ll say is that like any collection of drunken nights, the characters in Another Round experience highs and lows, ecstasy and misery, and of course, a couple hangovers. The genius and success of Another Round is that it refuses to force any of these emotions, or push a moral to the story. The movie isn’t a story about the perils of alcohol, or a parable about finding yourself through losing yourself. It’s just about being; it’s about depicting life with all of its ambiguities and uncertainties, which it accomplishes to the highest degree.
The movie would have not been able to capture this realistic, grounded feeling without the talent of its star, Mads Mikkelsen. His performance in this movie is amazing, managing to play the somber, depressed character of Martin in a subtle way that never feels overdone or unrealistic. Even with the absurdity of the subject matter—teachers being drunk all day—his performance manages to make scenes of him teaching with drunken exuberance seem normal and authentic. His co-stars Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millange, and Lars Ranthe also pull their weight, and the scenes of them acting like drunken teenagers together are some of the best in the film.
Then there’s that final scene, which has been heralded as one of the best movie scenes of the year. I won’t give it away for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but for a movie steeped in somber realism, the final scene is a refreshing blast that leaves you feeling hope for the future of the main characters. It also left me feeling like the movie did make one overall point: live life.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter about Another Round, Mads Mikkelsen said, “I hope it inspires them [the viewer] to grab life. Pick up the phone, make that phone call you haven't made. Go back into your classroom, be the greatest teacher ever. Embrace the life you have. Don't go into the pitfall of all the dreams you didn't get, all the things you didn't fulfill. Love the life you have.”
I think Another Round does exactly what Mads hoped. While it doesn’t picture a fantasy version of life where everyone can be content every moment of the day, it does remind us that joy and happiness are always there for the taking if we embrace our lives and live them to the fullest. While the movie is a downer at first, by the end, Another Round will have you smiling and making a toast to the glowing potential of the next sunrise.
Evan N.’s Rating: 4/5 Stars