In Denmark the new Mads Mikkelsen mid-life crisis tragicomedy “Another Round,” now in select theatres and the Apple TV app and other VOD platforms, was released under the title “Druk,” which, according to Google translates means binge drinking. It’s an apt title for a film that essays the intoxicating idea of day drinking as a remedy for disillusionment.
Mikkelsen is Martin, a school teacher in a rut. He’s distracted in the classroom and also at home, where he goes through the motions of playing a happily married man. After a drunken night with three teachers from school, he finds he is not alone. His colleagues, Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), Peter (Lars Ranthe), and Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), struggle to remember why they get out of bed every day. Their get up and go, it seems, got up and went.
To combat the shroud of ennui that envelopes all their lives, Nikolaj convinces them to take part in an impromptu experiment based on the work of Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud. The idea is to keep their blood alcohol levels at a minimum of .05% at all times. The theory being that humans are generally more sociable, confident and agreeable with a low-level buzz. That means drinking wine for breakfast and guzzling “medicinal” shots during the day, but, like legendary daquiri downer Hemmingway, stopping intake at 8 pm so avoid hangovers at work.
At first their social experiment in antisocial drinking yields results. Armed with portable breathalyzers, flasks and brand-new attitudes, the four men see almost immediate changes. Martin comes alive in the classroom, lecturing like his life depends on it. Phys Ed teacher Tommy inspires his team to a winning streak. The choir Peter conducts suddenly start singing with the voices of angles and Nikolaj takes control of his home life.
But when they decide to increase their daily dosage of drams, it turns out that too much of a good thing is just that, too much.
“Another Round,” in Danish with English subtitles, rides the line between glorifying the boozy legacies of Churchill, Hemingway, and Tchaikovsky, men whose genius was linked to their drinking, and wagging a finger at over indulgence. It lives somewhere in the middle, leaving it up to the viewer to judge the characters and their behavior.
Strong lead performances with a minimum of Foster Brooks’ style “drunk” acting help shed some light on the dark story, even if no questions are answered. Predictable moments are mixed-and-matched with unexpected twists, leading up to an open-ended final scene that showcases Mikkelsen physical prowess. Once again, the movie leaves it to the viewer to decide what, exactly, is happening.
Director Thomas Vinterberg shapes “Another Round’s” absurd story into a portrait of middle age, not simply drunk middle agers. It’s an entertaining story of melancholy Danes and their hopes, dreams and letdowns. It is sometimes celebratory, often cautionary and even surreal.