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Have Another Round, Mads!
What a night! Another Round is a drama/comedy from renowned filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg about four high school teachers who look to spice up their lives by adding a little liquid courage to their days. On the surface, it's a simple setup for a drama and most might be able to predict the trajectory of our protagonists in this story, but there is much more than just the tip of the iceberg with this fascinating social experiment within a film. Mads Mikkelsen (Rogue One, Casino Royale) plays a relatively timid man who fears becoming a bore to his wife and a failure as a teacher. His time is mostly spent apart from his wife, belittled by his students, and as a recluse from his friends. His friends and fellow teachers suggest that he break out of his shell by day drinking to give him just the right amount of spark to his social and professional life. From there, you can only imagine where his life, and his friends/colleagues' lives, are headed.
Just Guys Bein' Dudes
Another Round is actually surprisingly a brilliant buddy film. The chemistry between the four men is palpable. We feel for them and connect with them instantly. The film mainly follows Mikkelsen's character, but all four are shared protagonists that we share the experiences with and peer into their lives together, and separately. We sympathize with all their situations and empathize with Mads especially. We share in their failures, their breakthroughs, their heartbreaks, their blunders, and their revivifications. There are plenty of scenes with all of them together - drinking, of course. Their interplay is fun, kinetic, and impactful. Their experiences of teaching are so grounded and realistic, it's engaging to see them grow and succeed as teachers. Specifically Mads' character at the beginning, who could only start from the bottom. Their playfulness and cheerfulness brought a smile to my face when they have their days and nights out drinking together. There is one specific sequence in which they share in a drunken booze fest out on the town and it made me long for those days together in a pub once again. Not to mention, their drunken shenanigans were such a delight to watch. Their bonding as friends in this experiment was the glue that held this film together. The beautifully done intimate and hand-held cinematography adds to the closeness of the characters and the chaotic nature of their binges.
A Different Take on Drinking in Film
What's the commonality in films which have a primary theme of their protagonist's binge drinking problem? The moral of the story is always: drinking is bad and you should never do it. This film does not necessarily say this. Of course, it says, "drinking to excess is bad and you should be careful of how much and how frequently you do it." This film almost encourages drinking. It highlights the upsides to drinking when you are careful of how much you're taking in. It does show the dangers of when it's at its most extreme with one of the characters. But, the overall message is not to completely dissuade people from drinking entirely. Thomas Vinterberg understands that it is impossible to do this - just as we know we cannot convince high school and college students not to party. I have a big appreciation for this film and the filmmaker avoiding talking down to its audience and not being so on-the-nose with its perceived messages or themes. It delivers its message in a non-judgmental manner while also warning against the extreme sides of things. This is one of the many things the film does so well and why I have a tremendous respect for it.
Blends of Genre and Tone
The film deftly blends the drama and comedy genres as well as blending serious and comedic tones. The script is very grounded in reality and opts for realistic dialogue and situations rather than poetic and flowery dialogue with blown-up or overdramatized situations and scenes. The script also includes laugh out loud moments which are genuine, authentic, and work well for the situations and the film at large. As you might imagine, a film about four fully grown men basically drinking constantly could bring comedic moments throughout the film's entirety. These moments add desirable moments of levity which come after serious and often tense moments in which we fear our protagonists might get caught in their risky and controversial experiment. The film is mostly positively gleeful throughout the course of the first couple thirds, but moves into a dramatically more sobering (ha-ha) third act. The script reaches a fever pitch in this transitional moment and a wake-up call for the characters - it hits hard, is effective, and serves the story well. The film does end on quite a high note, and I will not spoil how or why - but audiences are sure to love it. I know I did.
To talk about this film is to talk about Mads Mikkelsen. Most will recognize him from his more mainstream efforts, but this is the second time I've seen him team up with writer/director Thomas Vinterberg. The first film I saw them collaborate on was The Hunt (2012), a ponderous and haunting drama that is well worth the watch. It's one of my all-time favorite international films, and films in general. It's absolutely chilling. Back to Another Round, Mads Mikkelsen delivers a dynamic, one-of-a-kind performance that only he can give. He shows depth and range with the pensive introvert who breaks out of his shell with the assistance of his ever-needed doses of liquid courage. We watch him grow as a father, a husband, teacher, and friend - and we're with him all the way. Mikkelsen brings the emotional heart, the physical comedy, and the behind-the-eyes acting that is one of his trademarks and best qualities as an actor. Mads truly is one of the best working actors today and is a gem to behold in this film.
Another Round is another knockout hit by writer/director Thomas Vinterberg with one of our landmark actors today, Mads Mikkelsen. It's an effective buddy dramedy as well as a commentary on the negative perceptions of drinking and works as a cautionary tale of consistent binge drinking leading to a slippery slope towards alcoholism. The film deftly blends drama and comedy to bring one of the most emotionally affecting and delightful films of the year. Vinterberg brings a unique approach to the "main characters drinking, often to excess" trope in movies, and it works tremendously in its favor. With full bodied characters, a message and theme that works on multiple levels, and world-class filmmaking on display, it's one of the best films you'll see this year if given the chance. Keep an eye out for this one to make serious waves come awards season, especially in the Best International Feature category at the Oscars.
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Another Round is currently available to rent on most streaming platforms.