Danish men behave badly in the latest drama from Thomas Vinterberg that had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Reuniting with co-screenwriter Tobias Lindholm and much of the cast of his 2012 Oscar nominee The Hunt, Vinterberg adds a new entry to the male bonding genre – a crowded field elastic enough to contain John Cassavetes’ Husbands and The Hangover trilogy – and puts his own Danish spin on it. The English title is unfortunate – its original name Druk (Danish slang for binge drinking) is so much more colorful. And on point.
Though Another Round is an ensemble drama, Mads Mikkelsen stands out in the crowd, one of a quartet of high school teachers who decide to test the crazy theory that maintaining a .05 alcohol level leads to optimum mind and body function. Certainly, staying drunk leads to euphoria in the early going, but in scenes that veer between comedy and melodrama, reality has a way of deflating the buzz.
Martin (Mikkelsen) is one of the quartet most affected by the experiment. In his youth, his future seemed limitless but now his midlife crisis is such that he barely engages with students and his marriage is suffering. The boost the now former teetotaler gets from alcohol energizes him – but it is not long before the downside to his and his friends’ social experiment becomes apparent.
Another Round nails drunkenness, expressed in its aimlessness and too many moments that put the viewer in the shoes of a sober person in a room full of drunks – boring. Performances are strong all around. Thomas Bo Larson is especially effective as Tommy, who is challenged by the experiment in ways he did not expect.
It is Mikkelsen who ultimately makes Another Round worth the time. He makes Martin’s sadness and aimlessness palpable in the early going. That he seeks rejuvenation in drink – a Hail Mary if there ever was one – makes perfect sense and there is joy in watching the sad sack come alive.
Vinterberg deserves credit for returning to Mikkelsen to his roots as a gymnast and dancer in Another Round‘s most exuberant scene. The teacher cavorts in front of his students, a sequence of grace and humor – a moment of sheer transcendence in a film too often pedestrian.