You’d be forgiven for reading the plot outline for Another Round and assuming wacky comedic hijinks would ensue. Based around a surprisingly real theory put forward by Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud, who suggested that humans could operate at their best with a consistent blood alcohol level of .05%, Thomas Vinterberg‘s dramedy is occasionally humorous as it explores such an effect, but remains a mostly realistic, human-toned film that successfully executes its high-concept with a straight face.
The aforementioned theory is one of the topics that school teachers Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe), and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) discuss over an evening as they wallow in their joint misery pertaining to their personal and professional lives. Struggling with the seeming demotivated students they teach every day, Skårderud’s theory takes shape when the quartet opt to test as such, laying down certain ground rules in the process (no drinking after 8pm for starters).
Almost to be expected, the experiment for the four is relatively successful in the initial stages, with both their work and their home lives benefitting from a rejuvenated energy long thought dormant. The decision for them to increase their daily limit to .10% is one that seems more narratively convenient for the sake of drama, but it admittedly injects Another Round with a rawness that sobers the story and drives it home accordingly.
Whilst it may have been born from a ridiculous premise, Another Round never feels like a film that’s exploiting such a concept for the sake of laughs, nor does its eventual bittersweet climax – featuring a wonderful dancing moment from Mikkelsen – feel unearned. Speaking of Mikkelsen, he undoubtedly walks away with the film with the type of immense performance that, in a lesser product, would have swallowed it whole, instead here he simply commands a screen that is filled to the brim with fellow talent of monumental proportions; Mikkelsen’s lonely, desperate facade hiding none of his character’s sadness, with Vinterberg’s invasive camera work only amplifying such.
A film that’s as challenging as it is engaging, Another Round overcomes its near-farcical premise with an organic honesty that lends an earnestness to its engrossing narrative.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Another Round is screening in Australian theatres now.