It’s no surprise that Thomas Vinterberg’s latest venture, Another Round, has been sweeping up award nominations left and right. The acclaimed film has both a high critic and audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, proving that it has a wide range in terms of appeal. The story follows Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), a middle-aged high school teacher who discovers that he’s falling out of love with his job, his family, and ultimately his life. After a night of drinking and celebrating with his three friends and colleagues, the four of them embark on a psychological experiment. They decide to start drinking alcohol on a daily basis to maintain a constant blood alcohol level of 0.05% to determine if consistent drinking will improve their lives. While the results are mixed and their alcohol consumption increases immensely throughout the film, it’s probably the most honest and realistic depiction of drinking put on screen in recent memory.
Mads Mikkelsen as Martin beautifully captures how difficult it can be to enjoy the basic elements of life. At the beginning of the film, his teaching is uninspired and confusing, leading the students and their parents to confront him, giving him more reason to be unhappy and unfulfilled. Once he and his friends start drinking regularly, however, all of their teaching methods improve and they begin to remember why they started doing it in the first place. It’s a refreshing take on drinking that isn’t often seen on the big screen. The most common depictions of alcohol consumption usually involve partying teenagers or sad dramas. In movies like The Shining and Doctor Sleep, drinking is the ultimate temptation, never seen in any way other than instigating evil, which works perfectly in those stories. While alcoholism isn’t anything to take lightly, Another Round takes the time to explain the appeal of drinking without any form of shaming or prejudice.
As the four friends continue their drinking experiment, certain elements of their lives are affected. Martin and Nikolaj’s (Magnus Millang) relationship with their families sees some turmoil, while Peter (Lars Ranthe) and Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) bond more with their students. The part that stands out the most is when Peter helps one of his students with his anxiety that stems from his fear of not being able to pass one of his classes. In a slightly unconventional turn, Peter encourages the student to drink before his exams, ensuring him that it will help calm his nerves. In their second interaction, Peter actually gives the student alcohol right before his exam, which he ends up passing. While these scenes have a slight comedic tone to them, it is a perfect example of how this film refrains from chastising its characters. In any other movie, a teacher supplying his student with alcohol would surely end in disaster. But in Another Round, it ends positively, validating why a lot of people who suffer from anxiety drink in the first place.
Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of scenes in Another Round that showcase the four friends drinking a substantial amount of alcohol and having a great time doing it. Those sequences are certainly entertaining, but they are balanced out with scenes of the aftermath. The men learn throughout the experiment that even though keeping a consistent blood alcohol level has made them better teachers, it has impacted other aspects of their lives in negative ways. Self-control plays a big part in being able to maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol, and the film depicts this struggle quite genuinely. As Martin begins to reconnect with his family, he realizes that he doesn’t need alcohol anymore and initially declines to partake in any drinking when he’s hanging out with his friends one evening. After a few moments, however, Martin decides to join his friends and drinks with them, leading to a very heavy night of partying that leaves him passed out on the ground not too far from his house. Now it’s safe to say that many of us have been there, done that, or at least something quite similar. Despite our reluctance, more often than not, we give into that temptation to over drink and let go. In Martin’s case, he’s finally waking up to the fact that he’s forgotten how to be happy which has deeply affected his marriage. Even though he’s taken steps to be closer to his family, this cloud of misery that’s enveloped him for all these years has kept him from seeing how fraught his relationship with his wife has become. The experiment has given him a new appreciation for life, but it has also revealed the weaknesses in his marriage, making it easier for him to choose drinking over accepting that fact.
With all of the ups and downs that the characters experience throughout the film, the ending of Another Round is a very fitting and uplifting conclusion. The friends find comfort in their students who are celebrating the end of the term, resulting in a lot of champagne drinking and dancing. Before the celebration, Martin receives a text from his wife saying they should try to make things work, when in the previous scene between the two of them she showed no interest in resolving their issues. Instead of giving her a definitive answer, he celebrates and drinks with his students, leading to a really wonderful dance sequence. The song “What a Life” by Scarlet Pleasure plays as Martin dances, creating an infectious and memorable final few minutes that solidifies what Another Round is all about: with or without alcohol, it’s important to find ways to keep us in love with life before we start taking it for granted.
While it does depict the negatives of over-drinking and the high possibility of alcoholism, the best thing that Another Round does is refrain from any form of judgement. It’s merely an exploration into why certain people gravitate towards alcohol and what its positive and negative effects are. The ending decides to celebrate the main characters instead of shaming them for drinking too much. For people who drink to help alleviate certain anxieties and insecurities, it’s a very vital aspect that makes Another Round so meaningful.