Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
Written by: Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm
Starring: Mads Mikkelson, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang.
Thomas Vinterberg is probably Denmark’s most well-known director, next to Lars Von Trier, known for pioneering the Dogme 95 movement and for naturalistic dramas (despite sometimes branching out, like with his recent adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd). 7 years after their last collaboration, he reunites with his The Hunt lead star Mads Mikkelsen for a soulful look at middle age, alcoholism and life in general.
Four middle aged schoolteachers, Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe) and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) are all equally in the mid-life crisis periods of their lives. They all decide to spice it up by making a pledge to secretly drink a bit of alcohol every day and find their lives improving as a result.
Despite the premise seemingly laying out a standard narrative arc, Another Round thankfully avoids having an incredibly predictable storyline by focusing less on the group of friends trying and failing to keep their pledge a secret and more on their lives and relationships. Martin is the central figure and he is a very likeable character as despite the obvious foolishness of his devotion to getting drunk every day, he never loses his way morally and the situations he ends up in make him pretty sympathetic. He also has a good romantic arc with his wife Trine (the incredibly beautiful Maria Bonnevie). The other three are less developed, but they all get their moments of characterisation through brief subplots that come and go.
Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm‘s screenplay heavily focuses on the younger generation vs the older generation, how the students indirectly influence the main teachers and vice versa as well as how people try (and often fail) to control their existences to solve their problems. Whilst these themes could have resulted in a lot of mean-spirited mocking towards it's characters, Another Round thankfully has little disdain for anyone, with one subplot involving a stressed student being strange but respectable. The third act does take a shift into pure drama, but despite this there is always a sense of optimism at the center.
The acting is strong all around, but Mads Mikkelsen steals the show. Similarly to The Hunt, he is cast against type, not as a charismatic or creepy villain but as a regular plain guy who is trying to sort out his life. It works, because Mads has an inherent natural and lovable quality to him, so even when playing a regular guy, he manages to have presence. Vinterberg’s direction is sometimes more stylistic than one might expect, especially with the creative use of title cards, but for the most part it is the same gritty handheld style that he has often used, just with more polish.
Another Round might not be a revolutionary leap forward for the “men in mid-life crisis” subgenre, but it is a very good entry. Fans of Vinterberg or fans of this subgenre will most likely be happy.