Writer and director Thomas Vinterberg reunites with actor Mads Mikkelsen for their latest effort which studies binge drinking in Denmark. Comedy drama Another Round, also known as Druk in its native language, follows old pals who work together at the local school. Whilst out celebrating at birthday dinner, Martin (Mikkelsen), Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe), and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) discuss psychiatrist Skårderud’s theory that maintaining a low but steady blood alcohol content helps us live more creative, fulfilling lives. Willing to give this unconventional lifestyle a try to shake up their middle-aged existence, they embark upon a social experiment.
With a premise such as this, you’d expect the plot to descend into booze-fuelled chaos. To a certain extent, it does, but Vinterberg and his regular co-writer Tobias Lindholm smartly rein in their story with a sharp and assured script that looks at society as a whole and at alcohol’s place within it. The main narrative is bookended by scene of excessive drinking from the students at the school, and history professor Martin’s lessons serve as additional commentary on our perception of regular consumption, and of alcoholism.
Each of the core four has their own midlife crisis to contend with, and the film focuses on them all as individuals as well as a collective. Between marital problems, the pressures of fatherhood or lingering loneliness, they all have a cross to bear and it’s interesting to see how they lean on one another in times of trouble. Like on a night of debauchery, there’s potential for a gamut of emotion but moments of deep melancholy are balanced nicely with comical sequences that really encapsulate how enjoyable drinking can be before those partaking lose control.
With no hooliganism or bar brawls in sight, there’s a level, albeit a low one, of Scandinavian sophistication to these flawed souls in comparison to the lager louts known to other nations. The characters’ depth is drawn out by the excellent quartet of performances and despite some very questionable actions, a warm sense of camaraderie is created. As the film develops, we are invited into their inner circle to revel in the shared experiences, but also to show concern and worry for the health and safety of the group. Because the actors have all crossed paths in previous films at one time or another, the bond between them feels genuine and is a joy to be immersed in.
Up until now, the best I’ve seen Mads Mikkelsen is in Vinterberg’s harrowing drama The Hunt in 2012. Amongst the skilful filmmaker’s many talents as a writer and a director is his ability to get peak performances out of his leads, and this is no exception. There’s a richness to Mikkelsen’s weighty portrayal of Martin’s that reflects his existential fear that his best days are behind him. A brilliant moment near the beginning captures his underlying sadness and his risky decision to participate on the trial isn’t out of sheer boredom; it’s a desperate attempt to recapture his youth and feel something again.
Tapping into universal vulnerability by way of an entertaining tale of friendship and foolishness, Thomas Vinterberg serves up a Danish delight in generous double measures.