The Oscar-winning feature from Thomas Vinterberg creates yet another character-driven black comedy, and Another Round has serious claims at being his best yet. Reuniting once again with stars Mads Mikkelsen and Thomas Bo Larsen, the two-hour experience boasts endless style, charm and flair with the highs of a heavy night out and the lows of an inescapable and gruelling fallout. But who would have it any other way?
A quartet of middle-aged male teachers undergoes a great reckoning. Facing realities that they aren’t the people they once were and that, at this current stage, their passions and lust for life are nearly running dry. What better way to fix that than to whet the whistle?
A study is presented to this group. Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud suggests a higher Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) would ease some of the pressures of day-to-day living, an alluring prospect and then some for this depressed, hard-nosed history teacher, Martin (Mikkelsen). He and his friends implement this theory and the bruising journey to follow. As chaotic and calamitous as it sounds, the capturing of fragility, fear, uncertainty and vulnerability is presented well.
The last time it had an outing this good was in T2 Trainspotting, a rollercoaster ride of all those wild emotions. Regardless of how these titles differ, Another Round’s poignancy alone demands keen attention for the turmoil of these characters, creating what feels like a perfect slice of life from the four in question. Another Round has a strong, contemplative nature that presents a welcome change of pace. It does not pull undercutting punches in its grim depictions of destructive behaviour, mental health issues or personal relationships. It is Vinterberg at his best, doing exactly what he does best.
But if the fine sound direction and strong creative vision weren’t enough, then the meat of the film, its performances, will be more than enough to win over fence-sitting audiences. Blessed with the starring role, Mikkelsen, in what should be a shock to nobody, adapts to the heavy-lifting required like a fish to water. A bit of a bystander in the opening stages, once the premise is set, he gets to work in ridiculously fast fashion. From the subtlety of expression to hyper-animated dance sequences, the role of Martin demands a lot, and once more Vinterberg draws out the best from his ever-reliable collaborator. Mikkelsen’s turn is as staggeringly good as the previous Vinterberg collaboration, The Hunt. Another Round offers a performance bound to cement him as a great, if he weren’t at that status already.
Of course, the men that make the supporting cast never see themselves outshined by the Hollywood frequenter. In fact, they’re as crucial to Mikkelsen’s success as Mikkelsen is himself. This sentiment is most applicable to Larsen, who plays the broad role of emotional anchor. The youth-level football coach buries his issues to inspire his players and friends. Sombre, tear-jerking moments with his character are presented in a devastatingly unexpected fashion. Moments that make Larsen’s efforts all the more impactful, and if anyone is vying with Mikkelsen and the significance of his role, it is Larsen.
Less intense performances are founded by Magnus Millang as Nikolaj and Lars Ranthe’s performance as Peter. They provide the apparent sensible side of the group and are recipients of the most complete, simplistic arcs. As Nikolaj spearheads the experiment whilst juggling a family breakup, Peter finds that Dutch Courage is all he needed to roundly improve his happiness. Like Larsen and Mikkelsen, they are tested. They grow within this period, all while the big hitters’ narratives serve a more grand, thematic purpose.
While neither detracts from the other, it is an exemplary feat to have layers of significance and purpose that feeds the story. The clear-cut nature of the duo allows for two exceptionally powerful performances. Considerate and comparably quieter, Millang and Ranthe are effectively the co-parenting dads of the group, a choice that enriches the dynamic tenfold, if not more. Above all, the four really do project what is, for all intents and purposes, a real friendship group.
The tone founded in Another Round is similar to that of Danny Boyle’s T2 Trainspotting. A wandering tone is not uncommon amongst Vinterberg’s work but Another Round shifts gear between crushing drama, melancholic release and a variety of comedy with ease. It is not small sprinklings of genre palettes either, it is as if each particular style or sub-genre appears in its own respective vignette. They are given enough attention and the space to do their work before cropping up later in some degree of explicit significance.
Striking such a fine balance only works in favour of Another Round as it invites the viewer along for the dizzying highs and crushing lows of Skårderud in-action. It makes for an exceptionally engaging watch, something further cultivated by its dance-heavy soundtrack. The premise is founded on insecurity, fragility and stagnation, but through that, it forges a careless, youthful bliss, demonstrated perfectly in its heartwarming, bittersweet closure. Drink it in and enjoy the buzz of a full-bodied Vinterberg.