Another Round stars Great Dane Mads Mikkelsen and was released on my birthday in his home country of Denmark last year. For reasons I will explain in annoying detail below, this means a lot.
My name is Laura and I have had an unhealthy obsession with Mads Mikkelsen for rather a long time. I was first introduced to his pale eyebrows and odd skull shape as Le Chiffre in the best Bond movie of all time (fight me, Skyfall stans.) I then went back through his portfolio, starting with Susanne Bier’s exquisite After the Wedding and Open Hearts, the Pushers and Bleeders of Nicolas Winding Refn, the hilarious religious and cannibalistic tales of Anders Thomas Jensen, the beautiful tragedy of A Royal Affair, and Thomas Vinterberg’s confronting The Hunt. I watched him bury himself in The Door and sport the sexiest of eye patches in Valhalla Rising. I bought Unit One (it’s still in plastic but it counts) and went down a rabbit hole watching his old dance performances on YouTube (think Danish Michael Flatley.) I even sat through a Marvel movie for him – I love the guy. So when I heard that he was starring in a Thomas Vinterberg film about alcohol I bought tickets immediately.
The film screened in the last week of 2020 for Perth Festival at UWA’s Somerville Auditorium, where I had the pleasure the previous season of having to sit behind a bunch o’ boomers who hated The Lighthouse (bring back Joondalup Pines.) Mozzies chewed at my sweaty legs and my ‘film’ glasses (newly acquired and necessary for subtitles) were slipping down my nose. At one point I felt something crawling under my thigh. I grabbed whatever it was (a massive huntsman, probably) and threw it into the darkness. I would not withstand these discomforts for any other actor. The lights dimmed, I muttered (in ruder terms than I can mention here) a request for silence, and it began.
Another Round is about four male high school teachers, flailing in their lives for one reason or another, who decide to undertake a social experiment in which the participants must maintain a 0.05% blood alcohol content. They are testing the theory of a Norwegian psychiatrist that we are born with a BAC deficit and that bringing it up to the ‘correct’ level results in more creativity and relaxation. Can they make this way of life work? (A clue: no.)
Mads plays Martin, the least confident and outlandish of the group who in a touching (and brilliantly acted) early scene has a breakdown at the table of a fancy restaurant in front of his three male coworkers/friends. He doesn’t drink (not because he’s an alcoholic, mind you – he’s just boring), he never gets to spend any time with his wife, and his students have complained that he’s lost his enthusiasm and passion for teaching. The way this scene plays out is really fantastic and the reactions of the characters are unexpected (sorry middle-aged white men but my opinion of your emotional intelligence as a demographic was unjustly low.) His friends (played by the always troubled Thomas Bo Larsen of Vinterberg’s Festen, frequent castmate Lars Ranthe and man-I-didn’t-recognise Magnus Millang) give real support, listen to his fears without judgement, and offer themselves out of solidarity as willing participants for this experiment that they think will provide the answer to Martin’s problems. Martin finally joins them in a drink (or several) at the table. It could be the champagne, the primo vodka, or the wholesome show of male support, but he starts to feel better.
Vinterberg balances comedy and drama (and a little tragedy for good measure) almost perfectly (and I say ‘almost’ only because no one can be as good at that as Jim Cummings. Watch Thunder Road.) We get to see Martin et al. open up and start enjoying life again. We also see what happens when men of a certain age are left to their own devices and egg each other on with sometimes terrible consequences. The film is funny, relatable and features outstanding performances from a cast whose chemistry is undeniable. I won’t spoil the ending as I’d love everyone to experience it without expectations, but I could not wipe the stupid grin from my face.
When it finished and we were walking out, an older woman said loudly to her friends “it was very Danish” (a groundbreaking observation) and whether she was referring to the effective way in which the film portrays the drinking culture of Denmark or she just wanted to point out that it is indeed presented in the Danish language, I gauged that everyone got something out of it. I hope you will too.
Another Round is out Feb 11. See it somewhere that serves alcohol. (9/10)