“Another Round” offers a unique glimpse into the world of alcoholism that is rarely shown on film. It’s a character driven film that gives a glimpse into one man’s journey from isolation to loosening himself and actually becoming more energized once he starts consuming more alcohol. Most films that deal with this topic show the detriment side of drinking, such as Mike Figgis’s 1995 masterpiece “Leaving Las Vegas,” Alexander Payne’s wine dramedy 20004 masterpiece “Sideways,” and all the way to Kubrick’s 1980 horror masterpiece “The Shining.” While the film doesn’t glorify alcoholism, it doesn’t necessarily vilify it either. It examines with empathy why some individuals indulge themselves, and find greater joy, and most importantly live life. Of course the film does promote moderation as the characters make a pact to keep their alcohol level below a certain percent.
“Another Round” holds some joy, sadness, and all around it’s also absorbing of its portrayal of something as social, infectious, and specifically something like alcohol consumption is something almost everyone tries during their lifetime. In fact, Danish filmmaker Tomas Vinterberg’s mano-a-mano chronicle of man who gravitates towards alcoholism is handled much differently, and rather more unique as it’s a condition that has been explored in literature, endless films, and yet Vinterberg tells the story without judgment or overt moralizing. In many ways, it bounces between the exuberant and somber, being joyful and empathetic, as you can’t help but not root for the mundane, everyday man to find some fulfillment in his life.
The start of the film finds a group of college students drinking and partying hard on campus, outdoors, and finally finding themselves very drunk on a bus. From there we open with Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), a college professor who struggles with his unmotivated students. His students are disengaged with his lectures, aren’t empowered to study hard, and turn in mediocre writing assignments. This of course leads to backlash from the students, and even their parents who feel Martin is too harsh on their grades. Martin also has a broken family, a wife he feels disconnected with since she is rarely home, and Martin feels very lonely as he feels his life begin to unravel.
During a night out with a group of colleagues, who also go to the same gym. All four men have the same issues lecturing their students and they feel their life has become mundane. During the dinner they get on the topic of psychiatrist Finn Skårderud, who held some fascinating theories about having a blood alcohol content of 0.050 actually empowers you and makes individuals more confident and alive. Martin ends up crying during the conversation, and reveals that he feels depressed due to his marriage falling apart.
After having this ephiny of wanting to switch things up a bit, Martin feels more inspired by the theories of Skårderud as he begins to drink at work. He always monitors his blood alcohol content by breathing into a breathalyzer, and he keeps it restraint enough where he never hammers. The rest of his friends begin to drink as well, all in good faith of upholding Skårderud’s theory. They also stand up the principles of Ernest Hemingway who also wrote some of his greatest work when he was drinking, but he would never drink after 8 p.m., and each of the men put a cap on their drinking limitation and hold some self-control.
It doesn’t take long for Martin and his friends to ironically change things around. Martin ends up becoming more of an enjoyable teacher and engages with his students much more, you can see the transition in the last where the students enjoy the lectures a lot more. It actually brought back memories where I lectured at a film school, I always attempted to make the class more ecstatic by interacting with the students more. I often challenged them, engaged them, and allowed open discussions and embraced input and feedback so it just wasn’t me lecturing for two hours. I learned these techniques from a fellow professor who I studied his methods immensely. There are some emotional truths that Vinterberg and Mikkelson find with this material that ring true, that dive deeper into it just being some “cautionary tale” about the dangers of alcoholism. The point to all of this is we should all loosen up, become less uptight, and take control of our lives before it all slips away. However, Vinterberg does explore the gray areas of self-control.
If there isn’t self-control, to whatever it is, things can lead themselves into the gateway arena that opens the door for consequences and repercussions. Once all four of them find themselves finding great joy, Martin even finds himself having a healthier marriage with his life, and even finding his children opening more up to him. The four men eventually unanimously agree to take the experiment daily BAC limit up to 0.10, which of course leads to more. What leads to fun and casual, ends up leading back to resentment and bitterness once the men end up coming late to their spouses, and it leaves Martin and his friends pondering where to take the experiment next.
What comes after are some comical montages of the men basically trying to transcend themselves out of their middle-age crisis. Structurally, the film would have benefited more if would have focused more on Martin a bit, instead Vinterberg surveys too much time with some of the supporting characters who don’t feel nearly as engaging as Martin, where you feel shortchanged by not getting an even harder glimpse and curiosity into Martin’s psyche. Martin is clearly battling depression, and Vinterbergh could have dived deeper into his inner demons. However, the film ends up taking a different route which is unexpected, but it frays away from being something more layered or even complex.
Vinterberg’s style and storytelling however, have always been endurance tests, that confine his characters into worlds where they attempt to break out of, but find themselves slipping back into. Also see his 2013 dramatic-thriller titled “The Hunt” also starring Mikkleson about an innocent man who is wrongfully accused of being a sexual predator. “Another Round” is also about a wounded man, one that is an underdog that is searching for some find some form of contentment and retreat. Although on paper, the story might seem familiar or like its exalting the subject matter of alcoholism, which is considered a severe condition that certainly destroys livelihoods, causes diseases, and tragically deaths.