The Danish film “Another Round” (original title “Druk”) directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring actor Mads Mikkelsen (who also starred in Vinterberg drama movie “The Hunt” in 2012) depicts an irreverent and alcohol-smelling tragicomedy story about the midlife crises in men. The film was released in September 2020 and it has been well received by critics since then.
Renowned actor Mikkelsen plays Martin, a teacher of History at a high school, who lives his life on the “autopilot”. He stopped taking pleasure in his professional and personal life a long time ago. He became invisible to his students, wife and children. Martin shares his dramas with three other middle-aged teachers and friends: Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe) and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang). They are all pretty under-par these days, but Martin seems especially to have lost his mojo, mumbling and stumbling his way through lessons in ways that alarm the students.
Tired of the monotony of their lives, they come across a theory from the Norwegian psychologist Finn Skarderud that man is born with a 0.05% blood-alcohol-level shortfall. Then the question becomes: what would happen to your well-being if you tried to keep yourself inebriated to this perfect level? Would men be happier? From this point on, the 4 middle-aged gentlemen decide to test the theory and prove its effectiveness. They begin to clandestinely drink certain alcoholic drinks, usually in plastic water bottles, during their daily routines at school and at home to deal with their dramas. Martin and his friends begin feeling refreshed, creative, uninhibited and above all, alive as if they have regained their lives back in their own hands.
There is something so subversive about this idea that it’s almost a shame to report that even in cinema, alcohol plays out as a cure for life’s ills, in precisely the way one would suspect. There is a hangover eventually. Initially, it feels like Vinterberg is going to celebrate alcohol as an all-encompassing remedy. One nervous schoolchild is even told to have a drink to cure his anxiety over exams – and it works a treat. Teaching history, Mikkelsen’s Martin starts telling the kids that alcohol is what links great men of the past. The shift in approach has his pupils looking at him excited.
However, director Vinterberg creates a turning point in history by making alcohol consumption a symbolism to make the characters see the root of their conflicts. He uses the drinking ruse to entice us in, before revealing that this picture has a more profound message about how, when life seems meaningless and boring, it’s sometimes a result of our failure to be honest with ourselves. And it’s this keg of the story that makes “Another Round” a tale that celebrates life’s highs and lows.
It’s all helped through a stupendous performance of Mikkelsen. Working in his native tongue for the first time in ages, the actor excels at playing someone in a massive rut, bored of teaching and with a marriage in the doldrums. The drinking works until it doesn’t, but it gives him enough insight to understand that something has got to give. And it does so in a spectacular way.