Warm, humane, hilarious and touching, Another Round is the kind of narrative film one might expect Mike Leigh or Hirokazu Kore-eda to release in 2020. Instead, this cinematic balm comes courtesy of Danish writer/director Thomas Vinterberg (Far from the Madding Crowd), a filmmaker of similar talents who’s been building to this kind of realistic, entertaining and emotionally complex work for the past 30 years.
It also doesn’t hurt that the film reunites him with his The Hunt star, Mads Mikkelsen, one of the most likable actors of the 21st century thus far and a consistently engaging presence here as Martin, part of a quartet of teacher friends (in pre-pandemic times) who feel painfully out of touch with their families, students and themselves.
To combat the ennui, young buck — read: 40-year-old — Nikolaj (Magnus Millang, The Commune) suggests that they test out Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud’s theory that humans are uptight and generally not living their best lives because their blood alcohol levels are too low.
Agreeing to sustain and not exceed a 0.05% BAL and incorporating Ernest Hemingway’s method of not imbibing past 8 p.m. in order to function the next day, the pals endure an amusingly rough initiation period but soon hit their respective grooves.
Like slightly buzzed versions of Robin Williams’ John Keating in Dead Poets Society, they incorporate creative teaching methods to inspire the students, resulting in such rousing scenes as chorus teacher Peter (Lars Ranthe, also from The Hunt) conducting his young vocalists to harmonious beauty and gym instructor Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen, ditto) spurring a seemingly hopeless young soccer player to success.
Any clue of why the spark has left these men’s lives might have made their quest to reclaim it even more thrilling. But despite being essentially male clichés in a midlife crisis — the epitome of rote storytelling — the four are so enthralling together and individually that the lack of originality is easily forgivable.
Along the way, Vinterberg incorporates a hilarious montage of noticeably drunk political leaders and highlights the experiment’s positive effects on the men’s personal lives but doesn’t shy away from the ugly sides of their study. As trials with going beyond the 0.05% mark grow comically dicey, the chums navigate their limits and deal with the varied consequences, several of which turn surprisingly dark.
But through the pain and losses, Vinterberg remains a devout humanist, and his tonal balance while exploring the peaks and valleys of the entire high risk/reward experiment is a wonder to behold.
Available to rent via grailmoviehouse.com