Another Round (2020)

Pandemic Movie Index (out of a possible 5): 🦠🦠🦠🦠

Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe

We all have some kind of relationship and history with alcohol.
Whether it’s a momentous occasion. A right of passage. Going through difficult times. Watching a parent or sibling struggle to remove their pants before collapsing in bed. Or taking a naked stroll through a cemetery on a dare after a beer bash — alcohol is never too far, lurking in the background.

In this Danish film that clinched the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film last year, four middle-aged high school teachers trapped in their boring, uneventful lives explore the idea of revitalizing their dull existences by maintaining a steady level of alcohol in their bloodstream throughout the day.
Motivated by the writings of an obscure Norwegian psychiatrist who postulated that man is “born with a blood alcohol level 0.5 percent too low”, the foursome embark on the ultimate inebriation experiment to recapture their edge, their creativity and their lives.

Getting smashed with Scandinavians may seem like an attractive proposition at first, but as Viking lore has shown time and again, it tends to get messy. And it does.

But in the process, the film has the merit of showcasing the full spectrum of alcohol with raw realism, in all its ugly glory: from the fleeting vitality, joy and inspiration it can provide, to waking up in your own urine — and everything else in between and beyond.

Most remarkable, though, is Mads Mikkelsen’s stunning performance as a family man whose life is empty and expired, his soul crushed by the sheer loneliness and routine of his existence. 

Mikkelsen’s icy glare radiates subdued despair in every frame, so much that he will move you just by batting an eyelid. (He may also force you to reexamine your own life and perhaps reach out for a bottle of vodka as well.)  

In its slobbering and poignant way, Another Round is also a celebration of a life that could be, reminding us that it’s never too late to fully live and appreciate life in the moment — a theme that director Thomas Vinterberg captures beautifully in the final scene of the movie.

That strong message of hope is certainly no coincidence; Vinterberg tragically lost his teenage daughter, who was supposed to play in the movie, four days into the shoot, when she perished in a car crash in Belgium. After production shut down, he insisted on finishing the film as a tribute to her. 

Like the main character of his film, how he managed to get through the ordeal is clearly a testament to the human spirit. But as the director confided to the Los Angeles Times: “If you ever laugh at this movie, it’s because there’s four actors and close friends of mine who try desperately hard to make their director laugh at a time where it wasn’t really possible.”

And, we suspect, some degree of alcohol probably helped along the way — as it should. 

Thanks to Patrice for recommending this film. Keep them coming!