Another Round @ TIFF

Like in sports, in films duos often work together. Combos like Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio, Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers, Helena Bonham-Carter-Johnny Depp, Tina Fey-Amy Poehler, and many others have worked together numerous times to great success. A more obscure, but in no way less successful duo is actor Mads Mikkelsen and director Thomas Vinterberg. They have made two films together and could be dubbed the Danish Dynamic Duo.

Previously they made The Hunt together to critical acclaim. Now eight years later they are together again and Mikkelsen is once again in the role of a restrained teacher. The center of the film is male friendship. Though film has long been dominated by stories decided upon and forwarded by men, male friendship has not often been examined. Not in a realistic way, anyways. As such it has been misinterpreted and misrepresented. Male friendship is not just about drinking, lusting after women, watching sports, and bathroom humour. While those things can be part of it, there is also a depth there that until now has been kept hidden.

Four friends – Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen – The Hunt, Festen), Martin (Mads Mikkelsen – from television’s Hannibal), Peter (Lars Ranthe – The Hunt, Adam’s Apples), and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang – The Commune, Heavy Load) – who are all high school teachers have reached middle age and settled into a kind of ennui. An ennui which they acknowledge over a night of drinking.

After many drinks are had by each, Nikilaj puts forward a premise by a philosopher that humans are not born with enough alcohol in their blood. That, for our happiness, we should constantly maintain a blood alcohol level of 0.5%. The four friends agree that they are going to do this. They will drink during the day to maintain this, but not after 8 p.m. and not on the weekend. It is to be a true experiment where they will document their findings to see if it truly improves their lives. 

Martin has been experiencing a dip in his life for many years. His marriage is dissolving. He is always very distant and reserved. Even with his job he feels old and lacks energy in the classroom. It has gotten so bad that the parents of his students sit him down to talk to him. When he starts his daily drinking everything seems to turn around. He is fun in class, so his students are more engaged. Being more attentive to his family and wife (Helene Reingaard Neumann – Worlds Apart, The Commune) also creates a positive change. Martin is a new man…or so it seems.

There is a saying about how good things don’t last. Very true here. Whatever good things are happening due to the men’s drinking begins to devolve. The drinking begins to have negative effects. You had to know that this was not going to be able to be maintained.

Aging, male friendship and alcohol. These three themes push Vinterberg’s film forward. All important issues. All handled well here. Via a film which is a combo of drama and comedy. A delicate blend of the two. Nothing heavy handed happens here and that is a credit to the director and screenwriter Vinterberg (Far From the Maddening Crowd, The Hunt). He has brought to the screen a well woven and realistic story which seems rather specific, but due to its universal themes will be relatable to many. Also acknowledges that men out there might want to see something which represents them beyond the action thriller and superhero tropes.

Each man and their lives is given enough breathing time on screen which gives the viewer a chance to get to know the four main characters. In all their quirks and qualities. They are all distinct and live different lives. We get to investigate male existence in a real way. Each of the four actors makes sure that their characters are more than stereotypes. Are fleshed out humans. Living lives we can identify in the men around us.

Another Round (Druk in Danish) is making the rounds of the festivals. Even in these odd times. It began its voyage at this year’s Cannes film festival and has now screened at TIFF. Big festivals! Which will bring it the audience it so richly deserves. Hope it continues forward with many people having the opportunity to see it.

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